Wednesday, April 30, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Delancey

“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:

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg

Synopsis on Goodreads:
In this funny, frank, and tender new memoir, the author of the New York Times bestseller A Homemade Life and the blog Orangette recounts how opening a restaurant sparked the first crisis of her young marriage.

When Molly Wizenberg married Brandon Pettit, he was a trained composer with a handful of offbeat interests: espresso machines, wooden boats, violin-building, and ice cream–making. So when Brandon decided to open a pizza restaurant, Molly was supportive—not because she wanted him to do it, but because the idea was so far-fetched that she didn’t think he would. Before she knew it, he’d signed a lease on a space. The restaurant, Delancey, was going to be a reality, and all of Molly's assumptions about her marriage were about to change.

Together they built Delancey: gutting and renovating the space on a cobbled-together budget, developing a menu, hiring staff, and passing inspections. Delancey became a success, and Molly tried to convince herself that she was happy in their new life until—in the heat and pressure of the restaurant kitchen—she realized that she hadn’t been honest with herself or Brandon.

With evocative photos by Molly and twenty new recipes for the kind of simple, delicious food that chefs eat at home, Delancey is a moving and honest account of two young people learning to give in and let go in order to grow together.

Publishing May 6, 2014 by Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Book review: Wash by Margaret Wrinkle

I had absurdly high expectations for this book, which were pretty much asking to be dashed. That said, I liked it pretty well overall. I do though wish it had been a bit shorter, and had read faster.

In Tennessee in the period between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, a man named Richardson has an unusual relationship with his slave Wash (short for Washington.) Rutherford had loaned out Wash's mother to an older friend, Thompson, who took her to an island in North Carolina's Outer Banks where Wash was born and raised. After Thompson's death, things got bad for Wash quickly, as he was someone who does not easily overlook being disrespected and treated like trash. After a couple of incidents, Wash is returned to Richardson, injured and ill. When we recovers, Richardson, who has bred horses all his life, finally finds the right job to suit Wash's temperament: being a stud. Literally. Nearby slave owners contact Richardson to rent Wash for a weekend, during which he's expected to impregnate as many slave women of child-bearing age as possible. Richardson, who is conflicted over slavery, finds Wash a companion to confide in, even if Wash doesn't return his trust.

I found this a fascinating time period that's almost never written about, 1812-1835 or so. And it was very neat to see through Richardson's eyes how during the Revolution, he and many others hoped slavery would be outlawed. And it's interesting that he ended up owning slaves after that. For him, it was a matter of practicality, not tradition or honor or principles. I really liked the character of Rufus, a blacksmith who tries to show Wash how to be a proud black man without getting himself killed, although he disappeared halfway through the book. Wash's mother was also interesting, who had been kidnapped from Africa and tried to teach Wash their old ways and old religion, although she too disappeared about halfway. At that point, when Wash was an adult and fell in love with Pallas, the local midwife, and when Richardson started confiding in him, was when I found the book bogged down. It felt repetitive at times and the atmosphere-building became too much for me. I did not understand why she both flipped between multiple first-person narrators and occasional third-person narration. I did stick it out though, because of the good reviews and the personal recommendations and that I have met Ms. Wrinkle and really liked her.

My book club discussed the book and it was very interesting for that. There were a ton of topics to discuss and interesting characters and parallels between the first half and the second half of the book. But I wish it had been a little shorter, which would have taken care of the repetition and too-much descriptions, and it was too slow for my taste, although some people will love to get lost in the world Ms. Wrinkle's so meticulously and poetically built.

I bought this book at my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books, after a WNBA event where the author appeared.

Teaser Tuesdays: Wash

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!

Wash by Margaret Wrinkle p. 80

"Quinn has changed his mind about my using Wash as our traveling negro. Now that he knows him better, he says I'm a damn fool to breed for sense, and works as hard as he can to keep Wash's get from around here."

The owner, Richardson, bred horses so he does know about breeding for different traits. It is interesting that instead of breeding an excellent worker, he bred a slave who had been a bit of trouble and is too smart for his own good, considering his circumstances.

Monday, April 28, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan (audio)

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Getting the Love You Want : A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix
And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer

Up next:
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself) by Carol Fisher Saller
The Old Editor Says: Maxims for Writing and Editing by John E. McIntyre

Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Beginnings: Wash

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.


Wash by Margaret Wrinkle

"It was one of his early trips to Miller's when I first laid eyes on Wash."

This is said by Pallas, the area midwife, who falls in love with Wash, whose owner rents him out as a breeder. She ends up birthing a lot of Wash's children.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Birdmen

“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:

Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies by Lawrence Goldstone

Synopsis from Goodreads:
From acclaimed historian Lawrence Goldstone comes a thrilling narrative of courage, determination, and competition: the story of the intense rivalry that fueled the rise of American aviation.

The feud between this nation’s great air pioneers, the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss, was a collision of unyielding and profoundly American personalities. On one side, a pair of tenacious siblings who together had solved the centuries-old riddle of powered, heavier-than-air flight. On the other, an audacious motorcycle racer whose innovative aircraft became synonymous in the public mind with death-defying stunts. For more than a decade, they battled each other in court, at air shows, and in the newspapers. The outcome of this contest of wills would shape the course of aviation history—and take a fearsome toll on the men involved.

Birdmen sets the engrossing story of the Wrights’ war with Curtiss against the thrilling backdrop of the early years of manned flight, and is rich with period detail and larger-than-life personalities: Thomas Scott Baldwin, or “Cap’t Tom” as he styled himself, who invented the parachute and almost convinced the world that balloons were the future of aviation; John Moisant, the dapper daredevil who took to the skies after three failed attempts to overthrow the government of El Salvador, then quickly emerged as a celebrity flyer; and Harriet Quimby, the statuesque silent-film beauty who became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. And then there is Lincoln Beachey, perhaps the greatest aviator who ever lived, who dazzled crowds with an array of trademark twists and dives—and best embodied the romance with death that fueled so many of aviation’s earliest heroes.

A dramatic story of unimaginable bravery in the air and brutal competition on the ground, Birdmen is at once a thrill ride through flight’s wild early years and a surprising look at the personal clash that fueled America’s race to the skies.

Publishing May 6, 2014 by Ballantine Books.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays: The Light Between Oceans

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 Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman p. 102

"It worried him that he could find himself listening out for her to wake in the morning, or going by reflex to pick her up when she started to cry. 'You're falling in love with her, aren't you?' said Isabel, who had been watching from the doorway."

That's a dangerous thing to do when you've found a baby. (Seriously, I know that sounds crazy but that's what's happened.)

Book review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

I first saw this book in Australia, but I didn't buy it as, even though it was in paperback, Australian paperbacks cost as much as American hardcovers! I then started hearing a ton about the book and how amazing it was, so I lobbied for it for book club and luckily someone else had already read it and thought it was be a great discussion so it was picked.

After returning from WWI, Tom becomes a lighthouse keeper off the Western coast of Australia on an island. His wife Isabel has three tragic late-term miscarriages (the last one more of a stillbirth) and is bereft. One day, Tom finds a small boat that has washed up on shore with a dead man and a little baby. Isabel convinces Tom to keep the baby, Lucy, and that decision has repercussions for not only those three but many people in the nearby town, Partageuse, where Isabel is from.

It's hard to talk about the book without giving away too many spoilers although a few of the twists are easy to guess given the circumstances set up. A few members of our book club were horrified at Isabel's disloyalty to Tom. I found it interesting that I thought I could understand, even though I am one of the few members of book club with no children. I have felt that kind of betrayal and rage and I have wished very serious ill on people (not frequently and not recently, in fact mostly back in high school, but Isabel's only in her early 20s and so is still in that hormone-fueled overly-emotional phase of life, not to mention the postpartum hormones). The decisions made by the characters were, I felt, true to life but that meant some people made decisions that they later regretted or which were not ideal.

One thing I loved was how Australian the book felt, although I don't think the author was writing for an export market (although she now lives in London so perhaps nostalgia helped fuel the descriptiveness). And I loved that for once, Sydney didn't make a single appearance in the book. It's very cool to see another side of Australia that was very civilized and modern (for that time) and yet filled with quokkas and scorpions and deadly snakes. I thought both the place and the era were perfectly recreated and I really felt like I could wake up in Point Partageuse or on Janus Island, and feel at home.

The book was lyrical, tragic, filled with twists and turns (in the second half), and heart-wrenching emotions. I enjoyed it thoroughly. If you'd like to escape to another time and place and lose yourself in a beautiful and volatile story, this is the perfect book.

I was given this book as a gift. It was bought at an independent bookstore.

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Wash by Margaret Wrinkle

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan (audio)

Up next:
Long Man by Amy Greene
Getting the Love You Want : A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix
Byrd by Kim Church

Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Beginnings: The Light Between Oceans

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 Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

"On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff's edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross."

The cross was marking the remains of her third child who did not make it to birth. The miracle was exactly what Isabel would have wished for, if wishes came true.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The One & Only

“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 One & Only by Emily Giffin

In her eagerly awaited new novel, beloved New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin returns with an extraordinary story of love and loyalty—and an unconventional heroine struggling to reconcile both.

Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

Thoughtful, funny, and brilliantly observed, The One & Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself . . . the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living.

Publishing May 20, 2014 by Ballantine Books.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Review: The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts

I know it's an American cliche, but I do love books about underdogs that triumph. I adored Seabiscuit and even though I'm not a big animal person, I do sometimes like animal books. I read all the great horse books as a child (Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, Black Stallion) and liked to ride at summer camp. There's something relaxing and homey about a horse book, as it brings most women back to a time in our childhoods when life seemed simple and made sense.

Like the girls at the Knox School out on Long Island where Henry de Leyer worked as the stable master back in the 1950s. They too probably looked back on those years learning to ride and jump with fondness, particularly the girls who had ridden Snowman, a gentle lumbering former plow horse who wouldn't hurt a fly and who all the beginners started out on. Henry had saved him from the knacker's truck for only $80 and just hoped he'd be a good riding horse for students. He was surprised as anyone when Snowman turned out to be a gifted natural jumper. And the poor immigrant couldn't not let Snowman perform, even when he struggled to pay the entrance fees to contests or needed to ask someone else to ride Snowy when he couldn't escape from school duties. Within a couple of years, Snowman was competing against the best of the best at Madison Square Garden in New York City in front of an audience of tens of thousands including the richest of the rich.

Snowman's abilities were renowned and spectacular, but what truly won everyone over was his personality. His rags-to-riches story made for great copy and was perfectly suited to an American audience, but it was his steadiness, calmness, and his constant giving it his all for Henry, that made him beloved.

This book was a lovely break from stories inevitably involving some tragedy or at least  bad guys to overcome. Snowman only had to overcome people who didn't believe in him and the easiest way to do that was just to do what he did. To jump. It doesn't matter how many people say you can't do something if you then go prove them wrong. Words mean nothing up against actions. This story was uplifting, sweet, and made me wish for more.

I bought this book at Barnes & Noble.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Eighty-Dollar Champion

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 Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts p. 41

"Up at the barn, the atmosphere was rigorous but fun and can-do. An everyone-pitch-in spirit prevailed."

This was the kind of aura Harry de Leyer, the head of the stables at The Knox School on Long Island, always exuded, whether he was teaching young girls to ride, coaxing high-strung horses to calm down, or getting the best out of Snowman, the plowhorse-turned-champion.

Monday, April 14, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
Wash by Margaret Wrinkle

Up next:
Kids These Days: A Novel by Drew Perry
Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe
Starter House by Sonja Condit

Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Beginnings: The Eighty-Dollar Champion

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 Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts

"The horse vans parked along Seventh Avenue came loaded up with dreams."

The vans were there for the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in 1958, so the anticipation is to be expected.

I bought this book at B&N.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Shelf

“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 Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading by Phyllis Rose

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Can you have an Extreme Adventure in a library? Phyllis Rose casts herself into the wilds of an Upper East Side lending library in an effort to do just that. Hoping to explore the “real ground of literature,” she reads her way through a somewhat randomly chosen shelf of fiction, from LEQ to LES.

The shelf has everything Rose could wish for—a classic she has not read, a remarkable variety of authors, and a range of literary styles. The early nineteenth-century Russian classic A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov is spine by spine with The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Stories of French Canadian farmers sit beside those about aristocratic Austrians. California detective novels abut a picaresque novel from the seventeenth century. There are several novels by a wonderful, funny, contemporary novelist who has turned to raising dogs because of the tepid response to her work.

In The Shelf, Rose investigates the books on her shelf with exuberance, candor, and wit while pondering the many questions her experiment raises and measuring her discoveries against her own inner shelf—those texts that accompany us through life. “Fairly sure that no one in the history of the world has read exactly this series of novels,” she sustains a sense of excitement as she creates a refreshingly original and generous portrait of the literary enterprise.

Publishing May 13, 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Book Review: Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

When I first heard about this book I was both intrigued and confused. A young woman researching Rose Wilder Lane (and Laura Ingalls Wilder by default) to find insights into her own life? Awesome. But the young woman is the daughter Vietnamese immigrants who run an Asian restaurant and this is somehow tied in. Huh?

But trust me, it works.

I too escaped from childhood (and occasionally adulthood) into Wilder's stories of survival and family, like Lee Lien. I was not escaping what looked like an inevitable future as the manager of a Chinese restaurant, however. But when Lee graduates from graduate school and doesn't know what to do with her life, things started to sound very familiar. Moving to a strange land to create a better life for you family - this is the plot of all immigrant families like the Liens, and also the plot of the Ingalls family, moving West for a better shot at success. That parallel had never occurred to me before but it now seems obvious. The American settlers were almost "immigrants" in the Native Americans' lands.

Lee has always been intrigued by a pin that a mysterious American journalist named Rose left in her grandfather's cafe in Vietnam during the war, and later she realized it matches the description of a pin given by Almanzo Wilder to Laura Ingalls, and they had a daughter named Rose who was a journalist and did cover the Vietnam war. Could it be the same Rose? The same pin? Lee is antsy to get out of her mother's house and will use nearly any excuse to do so. Her research takes her to Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas, as this Midwestern woman comes to terms with her place in her family, in her own personal geography, and as she wonders if she too should go west. Along the way she investigates family secrets and tries to find direction for her life.

The book really read like a memoir and I did have to keep reminding myself that it wasn't. It felt very personal and honest. Lee is likable if indecisive and unwilling to cause trouble at home, but she does grow up in the course of her investigation and makes some decisions--some unconscious--about her future. The (fictional) mystery she uncovers about Rose Wilder Lane was intriguing and I found the book, although by no means a thriller or suspenseful, still hard to put down and a fast, easy read. Anyone who has more than a passing interest in the Little House books should most certainly give this one a read. And if you want to read about my visit to The Little House and to Laura and Almanzo's house in Mansfield (which is featured in Pioneer Girl), that post is here.

I received this book for free from the publisher in hopes I would write an honest review.

Teaser Tuesdays: Pioneer Girl

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!

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen p. 59

"I resolved to collect my computer and spend the day anywhere else--maybe sit in a museum or library until it closed, get some work done, try for some sort of progress toward making good on my degree. But Rose had another plan for me."

Lee has finished her Ph.D. but didn't get a job and so has moved home and is supposed to be working on getting the chapters of her thesis published, but instead is avoiding working in her mother's cafe by letting an obscure connection to Rose Wilder Lane distract her.

Monday, April 7, 2014

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

What book club can resist picking a book set in a bookstore? Not mine.

After Clay lost his job at a website for a company making perfect bagels (turns out people like their bagels imperfect), he gets a job working the overnight shift at the titular Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore in San Francisco. And soon the tall stacks of mysterious books that are checked out--not bought--by an odd assortment of customers, inspire his curiosity and against his boss's rules, he starts to investigate. What he finds out is quite unexpected.

I feel like this book is what I wanted when I read The Da Vinci Code and The Eight. It involves a secret society, crazy archaic rules, stolen artifacts, and a historical mystery. Yet unlike those books, it was truly excellent. I loved the merging of old (the invention of the printing press) with the new (Clay's girlfriend, who works at Google, uses the powers of Google to try to solve the mystery) and the acknowledgment of the ridiculousness of the situation. The book was rollicking fun, non-stop action (past the first third), with sweetly silly characters, and a satisfactory ending. It's a perfect beach read for any book lover. And fun trivia: the book cover glows in the dark! There is also a very short e-book prequel about Mr. Penumbra that a friend says was delightful. I am hoping this will become a series and there will be full-length sequels as I thoroughly enjoyed it and I want to spend more time with Clay, Penumbra, and their friends.

I bought this book at B&N.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

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
Wash by Margaret Wrinkle

Up next:
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
Guests on Earth by Lee Smith
The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Beginnings: Pioneer Girl

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.

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

"In August 1965 a woman named Rose walked into my grandfather's cafe in Saigon."

I am one of few people in this world who likely would have guessed who this Rose may have been, even without reading the book description in advance: Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder. But she was a world-traveling journalist, including covering the Vietnam War.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Armada


“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:

Armada by Ernest Cline

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Zack Lightman is daydreaming through another dull math class when the high-tech dropship lands in his school's courtyard-and when the men in the dark suits and sunglasses leap out of the ship and start calling his name, he's sure he's still dreaming.

But the dream is all too real; the people of Earth need him. As Zack soon discovers, the videogame he's been playing obsessively for years isn't just a game; it's part of a massive, top-secret government training program, designed to teach gamers the skills they'll need to defend Earth from a possible alien invasion. And now…that invasion is coming.

As he and his companions prepare to enter their ships and do battle, Zack learns that the father he thought was dead is actually a key player in this secret war. And together with his father, he'll uncover the truth about the alien threat, race to prevent a genocide, and discover a mysterious third player in the interplanetary chess game he's been thrown into.

Publishing October 7, 2014 by Crown Publishing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Book review: Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS by Rebecca Eaton with Patricia Mulcahy

Watching Masterpiece Theatre (and Mystery!) with my mother is one of my fondest childhood memories. She'd let me stay up past my bedtime, watch things that were a little racier than usual (on occasion), and it helped me branch out in my reading, introducing me to James Herriott, Sherlock Holmes, and Agatha Christie. I was one of very few children who truly got the joke when "Alistair Cookie" introduced "Me Claudius" on Sesame Street.

Ms. Eaton was not in on MP from the very beginning, but she did go back to the originators and got their story of the birth of the show, which was with the airing of The Forsyte Saga in the 1970s (I was surprised there was no mention at all of the new production from the early 2000s, even if it wasn't on MP.) But she was there for the spinning-off of Mystery! and through all of the hosts and all the decisions of where to go, how to address issues like censorship and differing morays, and the celebrities. The multiple relaunchings in the last few years had me worried about the future of a beloved show, but after hearing her explanations for the different names and different hosts, it makes sense. I am lucky enough to live in an area where I have three different PBS stations so I have my choice of times and dates to catch shows. After reading this, I am even eager to go back and watch some that I've skipped like Call the Midwife and Cranford.

While the book is 90% about the show, it is also a memoir and does dip into her private life from time to time. I was dismayed that her divorce was really glossed over but I can understand her not wanting to air dirty laundry which is also fairly off-topic. The book reads very conversationally, as if you were having a glass of wine with Rebecca and she were just telling you all about her job and how she got started and how she went from there. It felt snug and comfortable, like a wool sweater, which is exactly the right tone for a book about Masterpiece Theatre. I hope it continues forever!

I won this book in a giveaway in the Women's National Book Association newsletter, sponsored by the publisher.

Teaser Tuesdays: Making Masterpiece

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!

Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS by Rebecca Eaton p. 10

"WGBH, the Boston affiliate of what was now PBS, was ready to step up--to try harder, as Avis used to say, because Boston, that center of culture and higher education, had originally been passed over when the Ford Foundation set up three production centers: New York, L.A., and Washington got the nod. It was a savvy executive in New York who had taken the flier on The Forsyte Saga."

Even though The Forsyte Saga often gets credit as the first show of Masterpiece Theatre, it was not. But it was the inspiration, showing the U.S. market was strong for British costume dramas.