Monday, March 31, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
None! I am very frustrated. A week ago Sunday I returned from my cruise and I had to stop reading Ladies because I had book club on Thursday which was Light. I did not finish it. Too many nights spent doing more unpacking than reading. And so on Thursday, I had to stop reading that book as well to start my other book club book, Wash, for Tuesday (tomorrow). That won't be finished on time either! I am in the middle of four books (Girls I started before the cruise but did not bring it because it's a large hardcover.) This is unprecendented and I am hoping this time next week to have finished two if not three of them. (Ladies will be a long, long time reading, as it's over 1400 pages.)

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Wash by Margaret Wrinkle
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan

Up next:
After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story by Michael Hainey
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower
Grant by Jean Edward Smith
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Beginnings: Making Masterpiece

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.

Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS by Rebecca Eaton

"On a warm summer day in 2009, I was sitting on the screen porch of my house in Kennebunkport, Maine, reading an American novel, and falling asleep."

Ms. Eaton was about to be woken by a call regarding a new British TV series called Downton Abbey. And she was about to pass!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book review: Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

Four years ago I visited Detroit for the first time and I was very impressed. The architecture was beautiful, the Institute of Art was fantastic, the Belle Isle Yacht Club was amazing, and the people were lovely. I am going back this summer. When I ran across this book, I was intrigued, as Detroit has been much in the news the last six years, with the worst of the bad economy taking hold there.

Mr. LeDuff is a Detroit native, but he was living in New York City, working as a journalist at the New York Times when he decided to move home. He wanted to raise his child in a more friendly environment near family, and he wanted to support his struggling hometown. He got a job at the #2 newspaper (the Detroit News) and moved. As he chronicles the misfortunes of the city's have-nots and the foibles of the city's haves (particularly the politicians as his homecoming coincided with Kwame Kilpatrick's downfall), we see its impact on his own family. His brother used to sell mortgages, and now his own house is foreclosed on. Another brother works part-time in a mind-numbing factory job that pays less than his first job back in high school. His niece dies of a drug overdose.

I liked the personal stories, and how LeDuff is so invested in this story as these stories don't just happen to strangers, however, he inserts himself too much into the stories that don't revolve around his family, and seems to view himself as something of a cowboy (the front cover of the book should have been a warning in this regard.) I don't care if he's wearing fancy snakeskin boots to cover a murder. I was also less impressed that I feel he wanted me to be by his mouthing off to people in authority (sure some deserved it, but he's not a teenager and should be able to speak civilly even in disagreement with a jerk.)

The characters he comes across are often so crazy that they can only be real. They were riveting and heartbreaking. The stories of murders, accidental deaths, squandering of city money, and the way the city is literally falling apart around its residents are sad and yet tell the truth of America. We are a country that is okay with a city selling off its firehouses' fire poles for scrap and mishandling the building of a new firehouse to the tune of more than ten times the estimate. I hope exposes like this one inspire more people to both reach out and help, and stand up for what is right. Detroit will never be what it once was, but there's no reason it has to be what it is. Good people live there and the city can survive. What form it will survive in, only time will tell.

I borrowed this book from the library aboard The Royal Princess cruise ship.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Frog Music

“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:

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Emma Donoghue's explosive new novel, based on an unsolved murder in 1876 San Francisco.

Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heatwave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman called Jenny Bonnet is shot dead.

The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny's murderer to justice--if he doesn't track her down first.

The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women and damaged children. It's the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.

In thrilling, cinematic style, Frog Music digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue's lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boomtown like no other.


Publishing April 1, 2014 by Little, Brown and Company.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book review: Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

I liked this book a lot, but I do understand the criticisms. Commencement is the perfect book for college students or recent grads. It covers four friends from Smith College, during their college years and beyond.

It really starts five years after graduation as the four young women are meeting up for the wedding of one of them. Although the book tries to be even-handed in the four stories, we do end up with one character that is more central, Celia, She is going to be a bridesmaid in Sally's wedding, along with Bree (the Southern Belle turned lesbian) and April (the militant feminist). Sally is the brilliant and beautiful but wounded girl whose mother died right before she started college. Celia is less defined and as the stand-in for the reader, that makes sense. With wedding preparations, the girls flash back to when they were assigned to a small back hallway, just the four of them, in their freshman (sorry, first-year) dorm. We see them grown and change through college, but also how those changes impact them after college. One girl says their first year after college is like their freshman year in life, and I really like that idea. I think it takes some of the pressure off to have everything figured out because how many freshmen have everything figured out? Their post-college paths are very different but they keep close, although not as close as they'd expected, and mostly due to Celia and Sally keeping them all updated on each other.

At the wedding there is a big fight. Mean truths are said, feelings are hurt, and relationships are injured. It takes a very long time to resolve this, which is much more realistic than these types of situations are generally portrayed. The ending was both odd and predictable. I can see why some readers don't like it, but it was well set up and fit with the personalities presented. It did feel like a first novel, with some awkwardness and fits and starts and some parts that weren't as cleanly developed as they could be. I had a little trouble keeping the three girls who weren't April straight. But I thoroughly enjoyed it and am very much looking forward to Ms. Sullivan's future books.

I think I got this book free at my previous job, years ago when it first came out, from the publisher.

Teaser Tuesdays: Commencement

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!

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan p. 10

"They wore jeans or cotton sundresses; they had touches of lip gloss and mascara on their faces, and smooth, long hair. Then there were the girls leading the meeting: Jenna the Monster Truck; two other seniors about her size, both named Lisa, both with cropped boy haircuts; and a junior named Becky, who looked like she might be positively gorgeous if only she gave a damn about her appearance."

The clash between the freshmen (oops, sorry, first-years!) and upperclassmen at Smith College was pretty striking. Celia wonders if they'll all look like they don't care soon.

Monday, March 24, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I went on a cruise last week which is why I had no reviews! Sorry. I have learned that I really only need to bring 1 book, just for the flight there and back, as cruise ships have libraries. Unfortunately, as I was reading a hardcover, I left it at home (Girls) and now upon my return, I have to immediately tackle my next book club book (Light) and the book I brought on the cruise (Ladies) is 1400 pages, so I am lamenting my choices a bit, as I am feeling trapped and like I can't really control my own reading for the next few weeks. Alas! But I am 1/4 of the way into the enormous book which is promising.

Books completed last week:
Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan

Up next:
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Expats by Chris Pavone
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Friday, March 21, 2014

Book Beginnings: Commencement

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.

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

"Celia woke with a gasp."

She just woke up late for her best friend's wedding. The wedding serves as the centerpoint around which we learn about these four girls' college friendship, their lives after friendship, and where things go from there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Other Half

“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 Other Half by Sarah Rayner

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the internationally bestselling author Sarah Rayner's The Other Half, Chloe, bright, hip and single, is a feature writer with ambitions to launch a magazine of her own. When she meets James, her potential new boss, she knows she shouldn't mix business with pleasure, but finds it impossible to resist...

Maggie appears to have it all. She's beautiful, a talented writer, and has a gorgeous husband. But something's not quite right: his job as a magazine publisher is keeping him in the city until late most evenings, and some nights he doesn't come home at all...

Told in the alternating voices of the mistress and the wife, this story of an affair is a sharp, seductive take on modern love.

Who, if anyone, comes out unscathed?

In writing that is lively, sexy and sharp, the international bestselling author Sarah Rayner explores modern-day relationships and age-old moral dilemmas.

Publishing March 25, 2014 by St. Martin's Griffin.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

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!

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan p. 35

"While I'm digging for change in the front desk's dark drawers, his attention turns, at last, to the shadowy shelves dominating the back half of the store. 'What's all that?' he says."

Asking about the dusty tall shelves at the back of the store is what all the customers ought to do but few of them actually do. But this customer is a friend of the clerk, so he's primed to take a closer look.

Monday, March 17, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen
The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer

Up next:
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn
Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper

Friday, March 14, 2014

Book Beginnings: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

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.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

"Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder."

I had pictured those rolling library ladders, so this sounded ominous but not terribly. Only later did I find out this bookstore's shelving is three stories high, so this is actually very dangerous and scary that he could fall off the ladder.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Savage Harvest

“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:

Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman

Synopsis from Baker and Taylor:
The mysterious disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea in 1961 has kept the world and his powerful, influential family guessing for years. Now, Carl Hoffman uncovers startling new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story.

Despite exhaustive searches, no trace of Rockefeller was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he'd been killed and ceremonially eaten by the local Asmat--a native tribe of warriors whose complex culture was built around sacred, reciprocal violence, head hunting, and ritual cannibalism. The Dutch government and the Rockefeller family denied the story, and Michael's death was officially ruled a drowning. Yet doubts lingered. Sensational rumors and stories circulated, fueling speculation and intrigue for decades. The real story has long waited to be told--until now.

Retracing Rockefeller's steps, award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman traveled to the jungles of New Guinea, immersing himself in a world of headhunters and cannibals, secret spirits and customs, and getting to know generations of Asmat. Through exhaustive archival research, he uncovered never-before-seen original documents and located witnesses willing to speak publically after fifty years.

In Savage Harvest he finally solves this decades-old mystery and illuminates a culture transformed by years of colonial rule, whose people continue to be shaped by ancient customs and lore. Combining history, art, colonialism, adventure, and ethnography, Savage Harvest is a mesmerizing whodunit, and a fascinating portrait of the clash between two civilizations that resulted in the death of one of America's richest and most powerful scions.

Publishing March 18, 2014 by William Morrow.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

A few years ago it seemed like every book club but mine was reading this book so it hit my radar, but not enough to search it out. Still, I heard good things and when I ran across it, I had to pick it up. And when I was looking for a memoir to read that would be lighter in tone, the quote on the front calling it "funny and irresistibly exuberant" sucked me in.

It's interesting to call a book about cancer funny, and now that I've read it, I wouldn't go that far. She does have a light tone and a few things are amusing, but I didn't find it funny.

A Mom to two young girls and hoping for many more, when Kelly finds a lump in the shower, she is lucky that her ob/gyn is a neighbor and she bundles the girls in their pajamas over to the doctor's house for a quick check. the doctor says one characteristic is good, one bad, and schedules her for a mammogram right away. Kelly's husband is out of town on a business trip so she goes alone. But when she is told to immediately get a biopsy, he flies right home and is with her for the diagnosis and doesn't leave her side throughout all the treatments: surgery, chemo, radiation.

But Kelly really wants her father, affectionately known as Greenie. A stalwart figure throughout her life, and dozens of others, he's a gregarious, outgoing salesman who never met a stranger and never met a problem. He had prostate and bladder cancer in the past, so he'd understand what Kelly is going through. She didn't anticipate that her father's bladder cancer would recur shortly after her own diagnosis, meaning they were going through similar treatments around the same time.

Every other chapter of the book flashes back to Kelly's childhood, mostly her teenage years as the youngest sister of two older brothers in the 1980s, and going on through her young adulthood and meeting her husband. But her family was never far away. Even when she moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco, they never seem far away.

I am very happy that in Ms. Corrigan's new book, she seems to appreciate her mother more, because in this book she feels overlooked and underappreciated even though she's the one who gets things done. Kelly's father is the fun and friendly one, but her mother is the one who organizes everything, pays for everything, and does the disciplining when they are kids and babysitting when they are adults. Kelly does talk about the changing roles--from daughter to mother--and how she sees her mothers differently, more sympathetically. But it always comes back to her father. Possibly that's partly because she is so fearful for his life. Sometimes she even lets that overpower her fears for her own life (or uses it as an excuse for ignoring her own life-threatening condition.)

This quick book was easy to relate to (even for someone without kids who hasn't had cancer) and Kelly has a friendly voice that makes you feel like she's a long-lost friend. I appreciated her honesty, her struggles, and most of all her husband who always had her back (and also seems a little overlooked, like her mother.) Greenie was fun and I did like hanging out with him, but it is interesting that the characters I was most drawn to were portrayed more as background, yet they were the backbone of the family Luckily Ms. Corrigan's storytelling was encompassing enough to give a flattering picture of everyone, not just her father, as awesome as he is. Because sometimes the Fun Dad can only be that way because the Strict Mom is behind him all the way.

I got this book free at a book swap.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Middle Place

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 Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan p. 23

"After an abbreviated morning shuffle, I hand them off to Sophie,
our regular sitter, and make my way to the Alta Bates Imaging Center. The waiting room is like the DMV with carpet."

Kelly is in the process of finding out if she has cancer. But I loved that description of the imaging center. It is so simple and so evocative. I know exactly what she means.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS by Rebecca Eaton

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan (audio)
The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts
Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan

Up next:
Class Dismissed: A Year in the Life of an American High School, A Glimpse into the Heart of a Nation by Meredith Maran
Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Beginnings: The Middle Place

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 Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

"The thing you need to know about me is that I am George Corrigan's daughter, his only daughter."

It's good she starts with this because this isn't really a book about Kelly's battle with cancer, but it's about her relationship with her beloved father, who also has cancer at the same time she does.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: I See You Made an Effort

“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:

I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50 by Annabelle Gurwitch

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Annabelle Gurwitch the humorist The Washington Post calls hilarious and O, The Oprah Magazine slyly subversive returns with a wickedly funny new book chronicling the vicissitudes of turning 50.

Publishing March 6, 2014 by Blue Rider Press.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

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

After watching Monuments Men, I really wanted to read something about art, so this book was on my shelf and I jumped at it.

John Myatt was a struggling single father with a background in art who was befriended by John Drewe, who asked if Myatt could paint a reproduction for his house. Myatt needed the money and he was very good at copying others' work, even if his own paintings had never been considered very good. Drewe asked for another and another and another, until Myatt could no longer pretend to know that he must have been selling them. But he needed the money so he turned a blind eye.

Meanwhile Drewe, who periodically described himself as a physicist, professor, military consultant, and spy (none of which turned out to be true), figured out that the key to passing off fakes in the art world wasn't the painting itself--after all even the best painters had off days--but the paperwork behind the paintings. The provenance that purportedly proved the painting had existed previously and been collected and owned by reputable members of the art world. And so he began faking the provenance for what was eventually hundreds of paintings, mostly by twentieth-century artists.

This book was a lovely combination of art, history, crime, and thriller. Would they be caught? How? Would the paintings be exposed? Would Drewe get his comeuppance? I worried the book would be dry and pedantic but my fears couldn't have been further from the truth. I whipped through this smoothly-written book in no time, only wishing there had been a photo insert. It's a fun crime caper but has a ton of research behind it, and Drewe is such a crazy character he could only be real as he'd never be believed in fiction. It was a thoroughly enjoyable book and perfect for any art lover.

I got this book for free from the publisher as a favor at my previous job. They were not expecting me to do a review.

Teaser Tuesdays: Provenance

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!

Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo p. 45

"The idea of concocting the intricate history of a work of art from whole cloth was no great leap for Drewe, who had been inventing himself since he was a child. By the time he was a nervous thirteen-year-old thread of a boy in short trousers and cap, he had mastered the art of dissembling."

One thing I really liked in this book was the authors didn't just talk about the forgeries, but also analyzed the character of the man behind them to try to figure out why he would do this.

Monday, March 3, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS by Rebecca Eaton

Up next:
Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel
Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett