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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

“Waiting On” Wednesday: A Little Life

“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:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Synopsis from Goodreads:
When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.

Publishing March 10, 2015 by Doubleday.

Book Review: Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian

Tom is a popular high school senior, dating the most gorgeous girl in school, captain of the soccer team, and getting straight-As. His hometown, Enniston, Maine, has long had a contingent of Somali refugees, with more and more showing up all the time, and as a leader at the school, Tom occasionally help stragglers find their way to help, and he's thrilled when some talented boys join the soccer team, particularly Saeed who plays soccer like an angel.

After a stupid prank against the rival high school, Tom has to do community service, and ends up helping smaller kids with homework at a community center focused on Somalis. There, he meets a passionate and smart college student, Myla, who makes him realize his own girlfriend, while pretty, is otherwise vapid and occasionally mean. He gets involved with the refugees on a level he hadn't expected, and when Saeed disappears in a bad storm, he does whatever he can to help, but he might end up hurting more than he helps.

Tom is a great kid. He manages to be both smart and popular. He stands up to the super-popular kids (his girlfriends' friends) in a way that usually works out. Although he does sometimes let his longtime best friend (but sadly, turning into a burnout) get him in trouble, overall he's a leader in the student body who is a good example to the other students and who seems to like everyone. This is an atypical YA character, but I knew guys like that in high school. In fact, I remember the school-wide shock when the top ten in my class were announced and one was a popular partier, and the other was (we had thought) a heavy metal burnout. Interesting how some of the smartest kids fly under the radar. But Tom isn't afraid to do what's right, even when it will have a social penalty. He's loyal and hardworking. He doesn't have any problem with the Somalis. While prejudice appears around him, he generally is a voice of reason and non-judgment. It's great to read a message book where you're not hit over the head with the message, and where the protagonist isn't even the one who needs to learn the lesson--it's people around him who does. Don't get me wrong--Tom isn't perfect and he does learn to be even more understanding of the Somalis' difficulties, and his understanding of Islam and of prejudices and of religious versus cultural proprieties is deepened during this time, but it' s very nice how non black-and-white the lessons are. They're much more nuanced and mature. The ending also isn't pat although loose ends are tied up, and I think more mature teens will appreciate that. I think this is a terrific YA novel that all teens should read, both for the great example of Tom and for the messages of tolerance.

I checked this book out of the library.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Review: Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn

In college, I did wonder about the really smart party kids. They seemed like oxymorons. Back in high school, the hard-core partiers weren't getting straight-As. but Very (short for Veronica) was a straight-A student who is now in her freshman year at Columbia University, an Ivy League school. However, she's not maintaining those straight-As anymore. She is so preoccupied with The Grid, the website she built with a friend to coordinate flash mobs on campus, with memes, and with stalking her online boyfriend who she calls El Virus, that her grades have been suffering tremendously. And the partying also has her in hot water with her R.A. When she's summoned to the Dean's office and her friends stage an intervention at the end of the school year, confiscating her laptop, her phone, and even her iPod, she figures she can handle it. But when she finds out that the friend who had the laptop, which is Very's one remaining link to her mother who died when Very was 12 (she didn't leave much of an inheritance but it was enough for a laptop when Very went to college), she snaps and finds herself strapped to a gurney at a hospital. So instead of a summer job or internship, or the cross-country trip visiting presidential libraries that she had planned, Very spends the summer at a 28-day treatment center in Vermont to break her electronic habit once and for all.

The scenes with Very's therapist were by far the best in the book. But the author was also great at subtly building a frantic pace in the first half, until you are feeling every bit as anxious and sleep-deprived as Very with her IMs and social media and playlists penetrating her every thought. I liked the resolution which wasn't exactly the typical ending for this sort of book, but it worked well. I liked the voice, even if Very isn't a girl I'd be friends with in real life (she sounds fun but exhausting.) I particularly liked the treatment center which was far from perfect, had chronic relapsers along with strict acolytes, and seemed realistic for an addiction treatment center. The revelations about her mother and her childhood were on the one hand predictable, but on the other hand felt atypical and real. And it's not a cliche to say that some people had crappy childhoods with parents who loved them but perhaps didn't know how to be a good parent. This YA novel was on the older side which I also liked as being a little more unusual. Overall, I was drawn in to Very's world and while I'm not eager to hang out with her, I hope she's found more balance and can maintain a less frantic life going forward.

I checked this book out of the library.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Way of All Fish

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 and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Way of All Fish: A Novel by Martha Grimes p. 41

"'You're the ones in the Clownfish, the men with guns!' She stepped back and yanked the tie of her robe tighter, as if it were armor loosening."

Funny, but I can exactly imagine that, the futility of tightening a robe in protection against a gun.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review: Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill (Editor)

I am a HUGE Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. I even visited both THE Little House near Independence, KS, and Wilder's home in Mansfield, MO. And it's bizarre to learn here that Laura Ingalls Wilder herself never went back to The Little House, even though she and Rose tried when she was researching and writing The Little House on the Prairie. But Laura remembered it was in Indian Territory and thought it was further from Independence, KS than it is, and so they were looking around Oklahoma (understandable, after all she was only four when they moved away).

Wilder wrote this book first, before any of the Little House books. It is nonfiction (unlike the LH books) and it includes things like her little brother that died, their sojourn in Iowa, the lazy couple with their baby who were staying with the Ingalls through the Long Winter, and other details. As a first draft it did have some bits wrong that Wilder later corrected either through research or by improving memories as she spent such lengths of time focused on her past. This manuscript did provide source material for the LH books (and for a couple of Rose Wilder Lane's novels, one with the knowledge of her mother and one without.) It is so fascinating to know who was real, who was not exactly (Nellie Oleson was a compilation of three nasty girls Laura met while growing up), and what happened to t hem later. I had heard a couple of years ago that Cap Garland had been killed in his early twenties in a machinery accident, but I never even knew much of what happened to Laura's sisters after the books. Pamela Smith Hill has done extensive research, combing through census records and old newspapers, to find notices of births, death, stores, roller skating rinks, and the everyday small town life of pioneers in the midwest.

I read every word of this book, all the footnotes (well, why read an annotated book if you're not going to do that) and the appendixes. But it can be daunting and dense, so I read it a bit at a time, rarely more than 10 pages a day. If parceled out properly like this, it is a delight for any Laura Ingalls Wilder megafan. In fact, it is a must read. I will treasure this book forever.

I bought this book from my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books. I know it was very hard to find the last few months, but I just placed an order for it before it came out, and it arrived the day the book released and I had no trouble at all!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill (Editor)
Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Way of All Fish: A Novel by Martha Grimes
Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian

Up next:
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig by Mark Essig

Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Beginnings: The Way of All Fish

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 Way of All Fish: A Novel by Martha Grimes

"They came in, hidden in coats, hats pull

ed over their eyes, two stubby hoods like refugees from a George Raft film, icy-eyed and tight-lipped."

But these aren't the two hit men in our main story, they're two other hit men, these sloppy with uzis, shooting up a restaurant and a fish tank.

Book Review: Stitches: A Memoir by David Small

I don't read graphic memoirs very often, but I'm always quite pleased when I do. David's is particularly apt as he literally lost his voice for a large number of years. Without his voice, drawing was a key communication for him.

His parents aren't monsters but his mother in particular seemed ill-suited to the role, ruling the house with an iron will and a steely silence. He did not have a happy childhood, although it could have been worse. But his slightly neglectful parents, who seemed to wish he'd just disappear, did neglect for years to attend to a growth on his neck, even after a visitor pointed it out (and his father was a radiologist which makes this neglect even more baffling.) When it finally was addressed, it had gotten bad, and resulted in multiple surgeries (hence, the book's title) and permanent damage to his voice. His parents lied about what it was and about the cause. They didn't understand why David was so angry and he didn't understand why they were so unhappy and had so many secrets (which do come out in the end.)

This book was powerful and riveting. Like most graphic memoirs, it can be read in a couple of hours, but it has stayed with me, haunting me, since I finished it. It may be easy to read but it isn't easy to forget.

I bought this book at a Borders GOOB sale.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When I finished this book, I said "wow." And wiped away a tear. And kicked myself for having waited so long to read it.

First of all, while I don't think it's necessary to have read Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time to enjoy this book, it sure would be a help (and an even bigger help to have read it numerous times, like Miranda, the protagonist. Luckily I read it tons as a kid, and reread it about 5 years ago.) From the beginning, the book is a bit of a mystery, with Miranda having been directed by someone she doesn't know to write a letter about events that have taken place. Miranda is 12, it is 1979, and she lives in New York City. Recently her best friend, Sal, has decided he doesn't want to be friends with her anymore, which throws a huge wrinkle in her life as he was also her only friend. Miranda starts to branch out and make friends with other students, even picking up a part-time job and befriending a kid she'd thought was a bully. Meanwhile, she starts receiving very mysterious notes that predict events in an eerie way.

I don't want to give away too much, so I will instead talk about how well drawn the city is, and Miranda and the other characters. They are sketched lightly, with minimal details, but they are so alive and three-dimensional and real. From her mother's boyfriend to the homeless man on the corner to the man who runs the sandwich shop, her life is filled with caring, unique, and interesting people that are fully-developed. The city, particularly at that time, feels well-captured (I say as a connoisseur of Norma Klein novels set on the Upper West Side in the 70s.) And the story, while deceptively simple in the beginning, turns out to be complex with small hints along the way (I did flip back through the first 30 pages after I finished and I found a couple of clues that I'd missed the first time that are so clever but not precious.) The book works on many levels, and is perfect for anyone who's even gone through a transition in friendships (so, everyone), or had an opportunity to get to known someone better who she's pre-judged. The twist at the end was brilliant and I loved how it tied everything together. I can see that this will become a classic. A worthy winner of the Newbery Medal.

I have no idea where I got this book. I've had it for years--it's a hardcover pre-Newbery and it's obviously already been read--but I did not get it from the publisher. Maybe at a book swap? Or used bookstore?

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Forever Bridge

“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 Forever Bridge by T. Greenwood

Synopsis from Goodreads:
With eloquent prose and lush imagery, T. Greenwood creates a heartfelt story of reconciliation and forgiveness, and of the deep, often unexpected connections that can bring you home.

Sylvie can hardly bear to remember how normal her family was two years ago. All of that changed on the night an oncoming vehicle forced their car over the edge of a covered bridge into the river. With horrible swiftness, Sylvie’s young son was gone, her husband was permanently paralyzed, and she was left with shattering blame and grief.

Eleven-year-old Ruby misses her little brother, too. But she also misses the mother who has become a recluse in their old home while Ruby and her dad

try to piece themselves back together. Amid all the uncertainty in her life, Ruby becomes obsessed with bridges, drawing inspiration from the strength and purpose that underlies their grace. During one momentous week, as Hurricane Irene bears down on their small Vermont town and a pregnant teenager with a devastating secret gradually draws Sylvie back into the world, Ruby and her mother will have a chance to span the gap between them again.

Publishing February 24, 2015 by Kensington.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review: Hawaii by James A. Michener

What else should you read while on a tropical island? I started this book last month while in St. Croix. (I know, wrong island, wrong ocean.) I like to bring a chunky mass market book, something relatively lightweight (obviously, not physically) on vacation. A lot of my friends like Michener and I wanted to find out what the big deal was.

The book wasn't what I expected. I was hoping for a saga, with forbidden love, a horrible secret, family vendettas, etc. This has none of that. Instead it is as if he's telling the entire history of Hawaii--and I do mean entire because he goes back to before the islands were even islands--as a novel. And while I enjoyed parts, the whole just didn't work for me.

I loved the first section, with the people from Bora Bora leaving that island to find this mythical island. It was exotic and mysterious and we weren't sure if they were going to succeed. And just as I was really getting invested with Teroro and Marama and the rest of them, they disappear and are replaced by the horribly boring Abner Hale and the missionaries. Ugh. We get their story for way, way, too long. And why focus on the most uptight, rigid, uninteresting missionary? From then on the narrative doesn't jump around in time much, but it does shift to following first a Chinese family that comes over to be farm workers, and then a Japanese family that also are imported to be farmhands. The story gets bogged down a lot with details about politics, pineapple propagation, and real estate. And it becomes very confusing because apparently the five or so "founding families" (read: white Americans) of Hawaii have never thought about any other names than the names those original missionaries had. So we get generation after generation with all the same names, and also they intermarry, making it more confusing! Not to mention, almost none of them have any personality traits.

And then about 3/4 of the way into the book, I was shocked at the unexpected use of the first person! It came up again just once or twice over the next several hundred pages, until the last two pages when it was suddenly revealed that the narrator was one of the characters, inexplicably writing about himself in the first person. Also, that narrator would have no way of knowing many of the conversations he recounted, particularly in the Bora Bora and Japanese and Chinese parts. That made no sense to me.

I certainly didn't hate it. It's well-written, overly researched, and parts I enjoyed. But it was ponderous, at time tedious, and I slogged through to the end.

I bought this book at my local used bookstore.

Teaser Tuesdays: Hawaii

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 and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Hawaii by James A. Michener p. 38

"Teroro listened to the complaints and then said, 'I have been willing to run the risk of getting you here, because it doesn't matter whether there's a spy among us or not.' He stared at each of his men and continued: 'If one of you is a spy, inform the High Priest, because that will scare him from carrying out what I think is his plan.'"

When I was in St. Croix, I saw a sailboat named Teroro! He is the brother of the king of Bora Bora and the priests have come up with a new god, Oro, who demands a lot of human sacrifices, which is going to quickly decimate the population of the small island, and diminish the power of the king in favor of the priests. That's not good for the king.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: Good Grief: Life in a Tiny Vermont Village by Ellen Stimson

I really enjoyed Ms. Stimson's first memoir, Mud Season, and so I was excited when she had another memoir come out, and so soon. But once I started reading it, I thought, oh no. This was too soon. She doesn't have enough material and it's just a bunch of little episodes strung together with no narrative arc or plot to hang on. And I did also wonder, what the heck was up with the title which seemed to not fit the book at all.

And then about 2/3 of the way in, there's a twist, and suddenly all the episodes started to come together as did the title. I don't think I'm giving away a spoiler any more than the title does to say that someone important in Ellen's family dies suddenly. And of course, it turns everyone's lives upside down.

Ellen's voice is a little manic and eager-to-please for me. She's a tad repetitive and incessantly tells us that she's loud and talks a lot (which I was well aware of). The subtitle doesn't make much sense as the book doesn't have much to do with the town at all, particularly not like last time. This isn't a case where after the big tragedy, the town rallied to help Ellen pull through or they finally started to accept her as one of them. Nope. Things were pretty much the same, and they mostly relied on out-of-state friends and family.

That said, it was a fast, easy read. She's very friendly and accessible, and her voice is somewhat reminiscent of Jen Lancaster (but with a lot less vitriol). And that may be who the publisher is modeling her on. But this book wasn't as successful, in my opinion.

I checked this book out of the library.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. I was at Winter Institute 10 last week! While I did get the flu, I also got a bunch of books and ARCs so those will show up in my "Up Next" over the next few weeks.

Books completed last week:
Hawaii by James A. Michener
Good Grief: Life in a Tiny Vermont Village by Ellen Stimson

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill (Editor)

Up next:
So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures by Maureen Corrigan
The Silver Spoon by John Galsworthy
Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty by Catherine Bailey

Friday, February 13, 2015

Book Beginnings: Hawaii

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.

Hawaii by James A. Michener


"Millions upon millions of years ago, when the continents were already formed and the principal features of the earth had been decided, there existed, then as now, one aspect of the world that dwarfed all others."

That feature is the ocean. And eventually volcanoes will create the Hawaiian archipelago. I don't normally like when an author starts a book millions of years before the plot begins, but it works here. Michener does an insane amount of research, but it doesn't feel like a huge info dump. It just feels like he begins at the beginning.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Find Me

“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:

Find Me by Laura van den Berg

Synopsis from Goodreads:

After two acclaimed story collections, Laura van den Berg brings us Find Me, her highly anticipated debut novel—a gripping, imaginative, darkly funny tale of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world.

Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy’s immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. There she submits to peculiar treatments and follows seemingly arbitrary rules, forming cautious bonds with other patients—including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.

As winter descends, the hospital’s fragile order breaks down and Joy breaks free, embarking on a journey from Kansas to Florida, where she believes she can find her birth mother, the woman who abandoned her as a child. On the road in a devastated America, she encounters mysterious companions, cities turned strange, and one very eerie house. As Joy closes in on Florida, she must confront her own damaged memory and the secrets she has been keeping from herself.

Publishing February 17, 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book review: Here Is New York by E.B. White

I lived in New York City, in Astoria, Queens, for four and a half years, from January 2000-July 2004. I lived there through September 11 and through the blackout. I visited last summer. New York is a very special place and it's nice that it's our, as America is such a young country, and so many of the cities in the world that are real treasurers, are elsewhere.

I am a longtime fan of E.B. White and I like essays so I was really looking forward to this book. I was startled at how brief it was, though. It's not even a long essay. I think they really could have done more to beef it up--add a few more essays to round it out. It didn't even take me an hour to read it. However, it is a small gem. Nevermind that it ought to be titled "Here is Manhattan" as Brooklyn and Queens are only mentioned once each, and forget the two other boroughs. But it is interesting that this was written as a part of a travel series, as at this point in his life, the furthest anyone could get White to travel was NYC (from Maine). I do think a former city resident is the right person to give it a fresh look, as they will know the nooks and crannies where the real city lives, not just the large-brush tourist areas.

This edition was published in 1999, and has a frighteningly prescient moment at the end, where White imagines how much destruction a pane could do to the city. This wasn't intended to have shock value or shake readers to their core, like it does today, so I don't think it's a spoiler. In fact, I think warning readers about this is my duty, as White did not intend the current emotional reaction his words will have, and for those of us who did live through September 11 in New York City, it's good to be prepared for references to it.

It's mildly amusing that White himself writes a short foreword to the book being published, a year after the article was written, and already one business he mentioned had gone out of business. But that's part of the New York experience. Yes you can go to Delmonico's and eat at a restaurant that's been around for well over 100 years, but also your favorite restaurant can (and often does) just disappear one day. The city is constantly changing, and the essay is a now-nostalgic look at a New York that no longer exists, where the Third Avenue El has just recently been shut down and one could still eat at Schrafft's. Every resident of New York ought to have a copy of this book.

I was given this book for Christmas!

Teaser Tuesdays: Here Is New York

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 and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here Is New York by E.B. White

"Manhattan has been compelled to expand skyward because of the absence of any other direction in which to grow. This, more than anything other thing, is responsible for its physical majesty."

Sure, everyone thinks of the beautiful skyscraper when we think of New York, but we forget that they were born of necessity. Sometimes being penned in inspires even greater creativity and growth.

Monday, February 9, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Here Is New York by E.B. White
Stitches: A Memoir by David Small

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Hawaii by James A. Michener
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill (Editor)

Up next:
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
The White Monkey by John Galsworthy
Good Grief: Life in a Tiny Vermont Village by Ellen Stimson

Friday, February 6, 2015

Book Beginnings: Here Is New York

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.

Here Is New York by E.B. White

"On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy."

I know it's a strange concept that you can be alone in a city of 8+ million, but trust me, NYC can be the loneliest city in the world (I lived there for almost five years.) I remember times I'd be sitting at Astoria park, surrounded by hundreds of people, looking across the East River at Manhattan, and think to myself, I am so lonely.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

“Waiting On” Wednesday: My Sunshine Away

“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:

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The narrator of My Sunshine Away tells the story of the summer of 1989, when he was a fourteen-year-old boy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in love with a

girl across the street, Lindy Simpson. Lindy was the girl with the golden hair and perfect legs who rode her bicycle to track practice every afternoon, leaving a trail of beguiled boys in her wake. Yet one late-summer eve, a crime shattered everyone's illusion if the supposed idyllic neighborhood, and nothing was ever the same again.

Publishing February 10, 2015 by Amy Einhorn Books.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays: In the Kingdom of Ice

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 and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

"These things the experts understood, or at least believed they understood. But nearly everything else about the pole--whether it was ice or land or sea, whether it was warm or cold, whether it was humid or desert, whether it was desolate or inhabited, whether there were mountains or labyrinthine tunnels that fed into the earth, whether the laws of gravity or geomagnetism even obtained there--remained a terrific puzzle."

In reading this book I have been baffled by how many otherwise intelligent men (because they are all men) believed--despite all evidence to the contrary--that the North Pole would be an open sea with no ice, and probably warm. Huh!?!? They tried sailing there a lot, and as they got closer, it became colder and more filled with ice. Why on earth did they think that trend would suddenly reverse itself?

Book Review: In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

I hate the cold. Hate it. And I live in a fairly temperate part of the country (North Carolina). Being trapped at the North Pole would be one of my nightmares. In fact, I don't even like reading these kinds of books at this time of year, preferring them in July when it's blazing hot. But I am so glad I read this! When I was a teenager, I remember watching a PBS miniseries about the actual explorers who were racing to reach the North Pole first and it was so gripping and heartbreaking, and this book really made me think back to that show.

It starts off a little slow. We're told about a different failed polar expedition aboard the Polaris, and how one of the men who participated in a rescue team, George De Long, was captivated by the polar region, and thought he knew what the Polaris captain had done wrong. It took several years and a while finding the right financial backer and the right ship, and of course the right crew (that was the biggest mistake on the Polaris where the captain was poisoned by his own crew), but De Long and 32 men set out in 1879 to try a new route, through the Bering Strait in the Pacific, to the North Pole. Bafflingly, they and many other eminent and intelligent men of the time, thought all the ice encountered in the region by whalers and previous explorers, was just an outer ring around a warm open sea (really going against every observation and logical conclusion), and so you could sail to the Pole. They were expecting to be penned in by the ice in the winter (which begins in September) but thought they would get spit out eventually on the other side. While that can happen (and a later explorer does successfully do this, but of course he was spit out in the Atlantic, not in a mythical open Arctic Sea), after two years, the crushing ice finally does in the ship, leaving the men to forage over land and open sea with sleds, small boats, and dogs, to try to find their way back to civilization.

It did take me a while to get into the book, when introducing all the characters, discussing previous explorations, getting the ship ready, discussing the odd benefactor newspaper mogul Bennett, but once they're on the boat in the ice, I because utterly fascinated. And one the boat went down, there was no way I could put the book down. Mr. Sides does a great job of creating tension. With nonfiction the problem normally is the outcome is known, and while any reader could google it and find out, the outcome of this event isn't common knowledge, so it was easy to be on the edge of my seat, hoping and wishing for luck to go their way. I do wish I hadn't skipped ahead and checked out the photo insert as it did give away one spoiler for me. However, it could have given away a much bigger spoiler and I appreciate very much that it doesn't. I wouldn't say it reads like fiction exactly, but it's pretty darn close, with tons of quotations from letters and journals. The crew of The USS Jeanette were brave and admirable men who deserve to be remembered. I am so glad that Mr. Sides has given them such respectful and literary treatment, as now a new generation of Americans will know who these brave men were.

I checked this book out of the library.

Monday, February 2, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill (Editor)
Hawaii by James A. Michener

Up next:
Florence Gordon by Brian Morton
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs