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Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Beginnings: Provenance

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo


"One sunny April afternoon in 1990 two Englishmen strode up the steps of London's Tate Gallery, passed beneath the imposing statues atop the pediment--Britannia, the lion, and the unicorn--and made their way through the grand portico into one of the world's greatest museums."

Considering that these two men are the con man and forger of the subtitle, this is not a good day for the Tate.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Blood Will Out

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade by Walter Kirn


Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the summer of 1998, Walter Kirn--then a young novelist struggling with fatherhood and a dissolving marriage--set out on a peculiar, fateful errand: to personally deliver a crippled hunting dog from an animal shelter in Montana to the New York apartment of one Clark Rockefeller, a secretive young banker and art collector. Thus began a fifteen-year relationship that drew Kirn deep into the fun-house world of an outlandish, eccentric son of privilege who, one day, would be shockingly unmasked as a brazen serial impostor and brutal double-murderer.

Kirn's one-of-a-kind story, already excerpted in The New Yorker, of being duped by a real-life Mr. Ripley, takes us on a bizarre and haunting journey from the posh private club rooms of Manhattan to the hard-boiled courtrooms and prisons of Los Angeles. In Blood Will Out, Kirn lays bare a Dreiseresque tale of class, self-invention, and the great American con.

Publishing March 3, 2014 by Norton.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays: Defending Jacob

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


Defending Jacob by William Landay p. 28

"Police sawhorses blocked either end of the circular driveway. A Newton cop stood guard near the school entrance."

Obviously things are very bad when cops are at a school. I'm not giving anything away by saying a student has been killed and this is the first day back at school for the students after the murder.

Book Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay

I am not normally a big reader of thrillers, but legal thrillers I like better than non-legal thrillers as they tend to be a lot more cerebral (and have fewer chase scenes.) This book was highly recommended and well reviewed all of last year and when it finally came out in paperback, I jumped at it. And when I was looking for a really captivating and fast read, this seemed natural.

And it was! It was a very fast read for its length (over 450 pages) and it was easy to keep turning the pages. Basically, not to give away anything that isn't on the back cover (or even in the title), the main character, Andy, his son Jacob is accused of murder and Andy, formerly the ADA (up until this exact case, when he's placed on leave), defends his son. (Not in court; he's not crazy. He hires a top-notch lawyer.) And as much as the book is about the cases, it's more about the family and what would you do in their shoes? Do you believe Jacob? No matter what? Do you take your eye off the ball of the trial for a minute to rescue your drowning wife? Your skidding marriage? Do you accept that she might have doubts? What do those doubts say about her, about you, about your son?

The majority of the book is told in first person so you really walk in Andy's shoes and see everything from his eyes, but his wife, Laurie, does give some perspective.

The ending is a bit of a twist, and parts of the book are told through court testimony which is a neat trick to obscure the twist (if those parts were also being told in first person from Andy's point of view, the author couldn't have left the big reveal for the end.) It's effective and I also liked that those parts were told from a point in the future so that Andy knew more than we did, and yet Mr. Landay neither gave away too much nor did it feel convoluted that he was trying not to. It was exciting, emotional, and has so many interesting twists that I'm going to recommend it for my book club.

I bought this book at the Southern Festival of Books, from Parnassus Bookstore.

Monday, February 24, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo
The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

Up next:
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Beginnings: Defending Jacob

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Defending Jacob by William Landay

"Mr. Logiudice: State your name, please."

I think everyone knows what those words mean. We're in a courtroom and someone is on the stand. It's interesting that these scenes in particular are formatted as a transcript, therefore removing any reactions and feelings or thoughts behind the words. Luckily, not all the scenes are like that, but it's an interesting technique that helps obscure some of what's coming.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Little Demon in the City of Light


“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris by Steven Levingston

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A delicious account of a murder most gallic—think CSI Paris meets Georges Simenon—whose lurid comibation of sex, brutality, forensics, and hypnotism riveted first a nation and then the world.

Little Demon in the City of Light is the thrilling—and so wonderfully French—story of a gruesome 1889 murder of a lascivious court official at the hands of a ruthless con man and his pliant mistress and the international manhunt, sensational trial, and an inquiry into the limits of hypnotic power that ensued.

In France at the end of the nineteenth century a great debate raged over the question of whether someone could be hypnotically compelled to commit a crime in violation of his or her moral convictions. When Toussaint-Augustin Gouffé entered 3, rue Tronson du Coudray, he expected nothing but a delightful assignation with the comely young Gabrielle Bompard. Instead, he was murdered—hanged!—by her and her companion Michel Eyraud. The body was then stuffed in a trunk and dumped on a riverbank near Lyon.

As the inquiry into the guilt or innocence of the woman the French tabloids dubbed the "Little Demon" escalated, the most respected minds in France debated whether Gabrielle Bompard was the pawn of her mesmerizing lover or simply a coldly calculating murderess. And, at the burning center of it all: Could hypnosis force people to commit crimes against their will?

Publishing February 25, 2014 by Doubleday.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays: The Longest Date

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack p. 47

"Until I got married, I was completely unaware that I had this bitchy inner nurse who just wants everyone to get up and get back to business, but I do, and--what can I say?--she hates her job. Meanwhile, who would have thought that Ian, the guy who said he didn't even want a relationship, would turn out to be such a loving, caring knight in shining armor, literally?"

No, she did not misuse the word "literally." You should read how he proposed to her! But she is not sympathetic when he gets sick is the point of this chapter, and he is a saint when she is sick, although she only gets sick like once every three years.

Monday, February 17, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Defending Jacob by William Landay

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo

Up next:
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

Book Review: The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack

I just got married in August so a memoir about being a newlywed was right up my alley. I also read Ms. Chupack's previous book about being single, and I've enjoyed her writing on various TV shows (Sex and the City, Modern Family) very much. In fact, I did feel like, in a couple of chapters, I saw where certain episodes of SatC came from.

After a short, failed first marriage (turns out he was gay), Cindy was somewhat resigned to staying single. But then she met a "bad boy" who didn't want to be committed, let alone get married. She thought he sounded like fun. He turned out to be the one and proposed on an actual horse. She then had to adjust to living with him, and his dog, and then there were more adjustments when they decided they wanted to have a kid. And when they had troubles having a kid, that meant even more adjustments.

Each chapter read as a short self-contained essay. In fact the one about the snow machine I know I've read before. But they do progress pretty much linearly. She keeps things light with a good dose of humor, even when the material is less than light. She has a very easy style to read, and the book isn't long. I could have read it in just a few hours but I was enjoying it, so I spread it over a few days. It's a perfect gift for an older newlywed (Ms. Chupack was forty when she married Ian.) or an older singleton who still believes in love.

A friend gave me an ARC of this book, not from the publisher.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Beginnings: The Longest Date

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack

"I've always been a romantic. When I was single, I slept only with men I believed I could marry."

So says the woman who wrote for Sex and the City! Now knowing that, you can more reliably believe that she thought she could marry a lot of men. But the man she did end up marrying her, surprised her. Not who she expected.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Mad Sculptor

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation by Harold Schechter

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Beekman Place, once one of the most exclusive addresses in Manhattan, had a curious way of making it into the tabloids in the 1930s: “SKYSCRAPER SLAYER,” “BEAUTY SLAIN IN BATHTUB” read the headlines. On Easter Sunday in 1937, the discovery of a grisly triple homicide at Beekman Place would rock the neighborhood yet again—and enthrall the nation. The young man who committed the murders would come to be known in the annals of American crime as the Mad Sculptor.

Caught up in the Easter Sunday slayings was a bizarre and sensationalistic cast of characters, seemingly cooked up in a tabloid editor’s overheated imagination. The charismatic perpetrator, Roger Irwin, was a brilliant young sculptor who had studied with some of the masters of the era. But with his genius also came a deeply disturbed psyche; Irwin was obsessed with sexual self-mutilation and was frequently overcome by outbursts of violent rage.

Irwin’s primary victim, Veronica Gedeon, was a figure from the world of pulp fantasy—a stunning photographer's model whose scandalous seminude pinups would titillate the public for weeks after her death. Irwin’s defense attorney, Samuel Leibowitz, was a courtroom celebrity with an unmatched record of acquittals and clients ranging from Al Capone to the Scottsboro Boys. And Dr. Fredric Wertham, psychiatrist and forensic scientist, befriended Irwin years before the murders and had predicted them in a public lecture months before the crime.

Based on extensive research and archival records, The Mad Sculptor recounts the chilling story of the Easter Sunday murders—a case that sparked a nationwide manhunt and endures as one of the most engrossing American crime dramas of the twentieth century. Harold Schechter’s masterful prose evokes the faded glory of post-depression New York and the singular madness of a brilliant mind turned against itself. It will keep you riveted until the very last page.

Publishing February 18, 2014 by New Harvest.

Book Review: Flyover Lives: A Memoir by Diane Johnson

I read Diane Johnson's novel L'Divorce about fourteen years ago, shortly after I'd moved to New York. I have always been a fan of "chick lit" but I like the variety that is more intelligent, with real problems and a slightly older, more mature protagonist and this book fit the bill. But I never read any of her other books. I knew she had written two follow-ups. I had no idea that she's published a dozen or so books, many of them non-fiction, some academic in nature, and is also an accomplished screenwriter, who wrote the screenplay for The Shining for Stanley Kubrick. Color me impressed.

What I really loved about this memoir thought wasn't the more traditional memoir parts of it, but instead when she dug into her family's past. See, Ms. Johnson lives part-time in Paris, and some French friends made a comment about how can Americans be expected to understand international politics, when we don't even know our own histories. And she admitted that was true. She didn't even know where her family was from. So she returned to the American Midwest, where she grew up in rural Illinois, to investigate who she came from and how those ancestors helped to forge the woman she became. She found old memoirs and letters in Great Aunt's attics and as she retold these stories, history came alive! After her ancestors came over from France (!), they settled in Canada and Michigan and lived in what she could only nicely call shacks, in the middle of no where with no neighbors, no family nearby, no medical help when needed, and sometimes no food. But they survived and eventually they settled in Illinois and Iowa where Diane grew up.

About ten years older than the Baby Boomers, she remembers WWII and her father fought in WWI. She grew up in an idyllic 1940s community where everyone knew everyone, no one locked their doors, and no one judged. The community took care of its less-capable and knew each others' dirty laundry, but kept that information to themselves. Diane ended up thirty, divorced, with four children, in England, trying to write a book (and trying to hide her divorce from her landlord who wouldn't rent to a divorcee.) She led an interesting life, with a happy remarriage and bi-continental living, but it was all the past generations looking down on her from their hard-scrabble lives that I found utterly fascinating. With the popularity of people looking back to find out our families' stories before they disappear, this book should have a broad readership. I loved it.

I got this book gratis from the publisher (thank you!), in exchange for a fair review.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays: Monkey Mind

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel B. Smith p. 27

"Buddhism was made for the anxious like Christianity was made for the downtrodden or AA for the addicted. Its entire purpose is to foster equanimity, to tame excesses of thought and emotion."

It's kind of a funny thought but also sounds right.

Book Review: Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel B. Smith

I do not suffer from anxiety. Occasionally, if I'm very overworked, have a looming deadline, and my To Do list has gotten as long as my arm, I might have a day or two where I feel stressed, and a couple of times in my life I've had an anxiety dream. But to understand what it means to actually be anxious is something I can't even wrap my mind around. I thought it just meant extra-stressed until reading Mr. Smith's account of his anxiety, which isn't particularly debilitating or on the disturbing end of the spectrum. But I do now know how much I don't understand. It took one simple story of how his brain works for me to see how off-kilter anxiety-thinking is. Here was his worry: Because he is anxious, he won't be able to concentrate at work. That will lead to him getting fired, which means to afford to eat he'll have to become a prostitute. Then he'll get AIDS and die. He went from just "I am anxious" to dying of AIDS in very few short steps that gave me whiplash.

Daniel has some theories about when and why his anxiety started, but to me it seemed like if it wasn't one incident, it would have been another, since his mother and brother are also both anxiety-riddled (his mother interestingly is also a psychologist!) I'm guessing there's a genetic component, and also a big learned-behavior part to it that would have manifested even if he hadn't had such an odd and disconcerting first sexual experience.

Along the way, we learn what an awful boyfriend he was initially to his now-wife, how he got into journalism, how he has at times copes or not coped with anxiety. And I was worried when, only twenty-five pages from the end, there didn't seem to be enough time left for him to get some real help. But he does. He finally has a fantastic therapist who makes some real concrete progress with Daniel and gives him practical help for dealing with anxiety (he clarifies that of his other therapists, only one was incompetent, but the rest still weren't particularly helpful.)

This memoir was interesting generally and eye-opening about anxiety in particular. While I will never be able to wrap my mind around getting from "I am anxious" to dying in a gutter of a sexually transmitted disease in six easy steps, I have a lot more understanding and empathy for an issue that I did not fully understand before. Well-written, it read fast and smoothly.

I bought this book at Barnes & Noble.

Monday, February 10, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
Flyover Lives: A Memoir by Diane Johnson
The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Defending Jacob by William Landay
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan (audio)

Up next:
Trinity by Leon Uris
The Dinner by Herman Koch
Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

Friday, February 7, 2014

Book Beginnings: Monkey Mind

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel B. Smith

"About ten years ago, when I was living in Boston, I had a therapist whose office was in a clinic across the Charles River, at the top of a tall hill."

Sadly, of the many therapists Daniel had, this one was the only one who was actually effective. It's sad that he didn't encounter effective therapy much sooner.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Daring Ladies of Lowell


“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott

Synopsis from Goodreads:
From the best-selling author of The Dressmaker comes the warm-hearted and enthralling saga of a bold young woman caught between two worlds-the vibrant camaraderie of factory life and the opulence that a budding romance with the mill owner's son affords-as the murder of her best friend sends shock waves throughout the town.

Determined to forge her own destiny, Alice Barrow joins the legions of spirited young women better known as the Mill Girls. From dawn until dusk, these ladies work the looms, but the thrill of independence, change in their pockets, and friendships formed along the way mostly make the backbreaking labor worthwhile. In fact, Hiram Fiske, the steely-eyed titan of industry, has banked on that. But the working conditions are becoming increasingly dangerous and after one too many accidents, Alice finds herself unexpectedly acting as an emissary to address the factory workers' mounting list of grievances.

After traveling to the Fiske family's Beacon Hill mansion, Alice enters a world she's never even dared to dream about: exquisite silk gowns, sumptuous dinners, grand sitting parlors, and uniformed maids operating with an invisible efficiency. Of course, there's also a chilliness in the air as Alice presents her case. But with her wide, intelligent eyes and rosy-hued cheeks, Alice manages to capture the attention of Hiram's eldest son, the handsome and reserved Samuel Fiske.

Their chemistry is undeniable, soon progressing from mutual respect and shy flirtation into an unforgettable romance. But when Alice's best friend, Lovey, is found strangled in a field, Alice and Samuel are torn between loyalty to "their kind" and a chance for true love.

Publishing February 25, 2014 by Doubleday.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Book Review: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

I loved Lionel Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin but afterwards I did not reach for other of Ms. Shriver's books, perhaps because the emotions of that book were so sharp and raw. This book is for my book club so I didn't have the choice, and I am so glad! I now have several more of Ms. Shriver's books on my To Read list. Her writing is so impressively on-point and precise and it cuts deeply. I found myself frequently reading passages aloud or over and over to myself. And they don't have to be long to make you intake breath sharply with her acute observations. Take this example: “The Web, the great time-killer that had replaced conspicuously passive television with its seductive illusion of productivity.” Yes. It is so true. Once when we goofed off, we couldn't pretend we were doing anything but. Now, when I am caught by my husband playing solitaire, I quickly flip the phone from horizontal to vertical, pretending I was checking email.

She is also sharp in picking her topics. They're not ripped-from-the-headlines in the way of Law & Order or Jodi Picoult's novels, but instead she picks the topics that are not only very relevant, but that everyone is afraid to talk about. In this book, it's obesity. Pandora goes to the airport to pick up her brother, Edison, and at first is saddened to see a grotesquely overweight passenger being wheeled to baggage claim in a wheelchair, and then is disgusted and horrified when she realizes this person she was just pitying is Edison, almost 400 pounds.

I don't want to give too much away as you should just read the book, but I'll say that sibling relationships are a huge theme of the book, as is the temptation and fleeting nature of fame. I was a little disappointed that a couple of the secondary characters felt like afterthoughts. They weren't in the book enough given their stated importance, but they weren't in it little enough to just be passing references, namely Oliver and Solstice. But that's a minor quibble with an otherwise masterful novel. The ending smacked me in the face, but I can't say it was such a shock that I didn't buy it. I'm sure some people will have a big problem with the ending, but I was okay with it. I am excited to hear what the rest of my book club thought of it.

I will leave you with a couple other choice lines that made me pause in my reading:
“But what's so great about being a perfectionist?... You do all this work, and then the stuff you've made just pisses you off.”
“Maybe the greatest favor a spouse can tender is to overlook what you can't.”

This book was fantastic. Like a decadent chocolate cake. Although it made me work out more while I was reading it. Read it now.

I checked this book out of the library.

Teaser Tuesdays: Big Brother

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver p. 19

"Edison was my family, the sole blood relative whom I clearly and cleanly loved. This one attachment distilled all the loyalty that most people dilute across a larger clan into a devotion with the intensity of a tamarind."

Sibling relationships are incredibly complicated. Pandora's with her brother Edison is even more complicated than most, and it is about to get a heck of a lot more difficult when she sees him at almost-400 pounds for the first time.

Monday, February 3, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel B. Smith

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan (audio)

Up next:
The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti
The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund
The Partner Track by Helen Wan