Wednesday, October 30, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Vanished

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

Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II by Wil S. Hylton

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the fall of 1944, a massive American bomber carrying eleven men vanished over the Pacific islands of Palau, leaving a trail of mysteries. According to mission reports from the Army Air Forces, the plane crashed in shallow water—but when investigators went to find it, the wreckage wasn't there. Witnesses saw the crew parachute to safety, yet the airmen were never seen again. Some of their relatives whispered that they had returned to the United States in secret and lived in hiding. But they never explained why.

For sixty years, the U.S. government, the children of the missing airmen, and a maverick team of scientists and scuba divers searched the islands for clues. They trolled the water with side-scan sonar, conducted grid searches on the seafloor, crawled through thickets of mangrove and poison trees, and flew over the islands in small planes to shoot infrared photography. With every clue they found, the mystery only deepened.

Now, in a spellbinding narrative, Wil S. Hylton weaves together the true story of the missing men, their final mission, the families they left behind, and the real reason their disappearance remained shrouded in secrecy for so long. This is a story of love, loss, sacrifice, and faith—of the undying hope among the families of the missing, and the relentless determination of scientists, explorers, archaeologists, and deep-sea divers to solve one of the enduring mysteries of World War II.

Publishing November 5, 2013 by Riverhead Hardcover.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: The Eight

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 Eight by Katherine Neville p. 40

"The fortune-teller was looking down at her clipboard now, tapping her pencil against the metal frame as if uncertain whether to proceed. I was becoming annoyed."

Fortune-tellers can be annoying to a lot of more practical people like Cat, the computer expert, but when they're particularly cryptic and take their time, it would up the annoyance factor.

Book Review: The Eight by Katherine Neville

This book was pitched to me by a former co-worker as a smart reader's The DaVinci Code and I can totally see that. It has the complicated sweeping plot that takes us across multiple continents, involves the Catholic church, and a mystery hiding a great power that might even have an element of magic to it.

The story is told in two parts. Mireille is a young novice nun in France in 1790 when she is pressed into service by her abbess in helping keep the secret of the Montglane Chess Service safe from the chaos and power grabbing going on amidst the breakout of the French Revolution. Cat is a computer expert in 1972 New York, sent off to Algeria, where she too encounters the Montglane Chess Service. Cat needs to find the missing pieces, scattered to the four winds, before someone else does, allowing them to use the hidden powers the chess set encompasses.

There were amazing coincidences, unlikely useful random facts the characters knew, and the characters have a propensity for running into future famous people wherever they go. ("Why hello Napoleon! Have you met my uncle the famous painter David? You have? Let's hang out with Wordsworth and Blake and Talleyrand and Robespierre!") But it was still a lot of fun, and definitely assumed a slightly higher level of understanding in its readers, with talk of Fibonacci numbers and sound waves and OPEC and Pythagoras. One of our book club members did have a lot of trouble with the book, as she was the only one of us who had never played the game of chess and so didn't know what the pieces signified and what their movements were. But she still enjoyed the book overall.

So if you're looking for a fun, popcorn book but don't want to be too talked down to, The Eight is perfect.

A friend gave me a used copy of this book.

Monday, October 28, 2013

We Need More Feminists in Publishing

Today the Publishers Weekly Annual Salary Survey came out and as usual, women don't make as much money as men. And it's not a small gap either: the average male respondent earns $85,000 per year and the average female employee earns $56,000. The claim is that women in the industry gravitate towards jobs that pay less (editing, publicity) and men towards the jobs that pay better (sales, finance). But is that really the case? I am currently reading When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins and she points out that when women started entering the teaching profession, they were paid half of what men were for the same job. So is it that women gravitate towards positions that naturally are paid less, or that those positions are paid less because they mostly are filled by women?

A few months ago I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and I was galvanized. I want women, particularly in my industry which is mostly female, to have more management positions and to take on more leadership roles. Personally, I run my own business, and I am the Vice-President, President-Elect of the Women's National Book Association. I am not a person who has always been a leader or is naturally drawn towards leadership. Instead, I have had to be nudged. Looking back, I particularly am grateful for the two high school teachers I had (both women) who shoved me into a couple of leading roles I wouldn't have even thought of for myself--President of Beta Club and Committee Chair at Tennessee Youth Legislature. In college I did run for Kitchen Manager of my eating house and won twice (I ran unopposed), and I coordinated the receptions after all the Artist Series events, but that was it for leadership for me. After college, I fell back further, only organizing a book club at the B&N where I worked. But once in New York, working in publishing, I again got a small push. I attended all of the Young to Publishing events their first year and my perfect attendance was noticed and I was asked to join the Board. I loved being on the Board and--bad timing!--right before I left New York I was elected President. Ugh. In North Carolina it took me a few years to get my bearings, but five years ago I founded the Charlotte Chapter of the Women's National Book Association and was elected its first President. Then last year I was tapped to be the Vice-President of National WNBA, a position that automatically leads to President.

Now that I am on the National WNBA Board, I am dismayed that our biggest struggle is leadership. We constantly are on the lookout for exciting, enthusiastic and successful women who we sometimes have to shove or arm-twist into officer roles, even at the local level. After reading Lean In, it occurred to me that this problem is specific to our organization because we are 99% female. If a large percentage of our members were men, we would never have the problem of constantly looking for the next president. Instead we'd have multiple people vying for the office. I agree with Ms. Sandberg that a big reason more women aren't in management roles is because we don't ask to be. And in publishing, it's even more frustrating, as the industry is dominated by women in nearly every department.

Up until two days ago I used to tell people that I never encountered sexism until after college, working at a bookstore with a sexist boss (a woman!) Young women just entering the workforce are often accused of being in denial about the fight for equal rights being over, but I felt the same way when I was 21. And I was so wrong. When Everything Changed reminded me about something I had forgotten long ago. I read a story about a woman in 1960 who was turned away from traffic court (trying to pay her husband's parking ticket) due to the fact that she was wearing pants, even though she was otherwise dressed very nicely. And the judge did not turn away men in overalls or dungarees heading out to construction jobs, only this one woman wearing slacks. I was incensed! And in a following story a woman said you couldn't even wear pants in the winter no matter how cold it was. If you did wear pants to work, you had to change as soon as you got to work. And a bell went off in my head. I did that. In grade school. In the 1980s. The Catholic school I attended had a uniform, of course, with no pants option for girls. Girls had to wear the jumper (or the skirt in junior high). In the winter you could wear pants underneath but you had to take them off before school started. And it never occurred to me that we girls were being mandated to freeze due to sexist ideas about what it was appropriate for us to wear because of our gender. I started experiencing sexism at the ripe old age of six. Hm.

No wonder we're primed to think of the world we live in as not sexist (women in the 1960s also thought their jobs weren't sexist!) It's ingrained so early, and so often, that it's natural. It's normal. So doing things like asking for a raise, applying for a promotion, and stepping up to be president of an organization, feel completely unnatural us. We might be straining against natural introverted tendencies to begin with (which I think are the rule in publishing) and then also rebelling against a lifetime of being told to be nice, to be quiet, to wait our turn, can make the discomfort unbearable. But bear it we must.

Women, please stand up. Be counted. And ask for what you want and what you deserve. Find mentors. Look to those daisies who stand out in a crowd. And help us close the massive gap in the pay and in the boardroom.

Soon I will be reading Debora Spar’s new book, Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection. I don't think my reading on feminism will wane anytime soon, but I hope it has a reason to. (Interesting article by Spar found here.)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins
One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson (audio)
Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It Right by Bill Bryson

Up next:
This Dark Road to Mercy: A Novel by Wiley Cash
Defending Jacob by William Landay
The Children by David Halberstam

Friday, October 25, 2013

Book Beginnings: The Eight

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 Eight by Katherine Neville

"A flock of nuns crossed the road, their crisp wimples fluttering about their heads like the wings of large sea birds."

This story has two narratives, and it opens with the story of the Eighteenth Century French nuns.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Bully Pulpit

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

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Synopsis from Goodreads:
After Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin wields her magic on another larger-than-life president, and another momentous and raucous American time period as she brings Theodore Roosevelt, the muckraking journalists, and the Progressive Era to life.

As she focused on the relationship between Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Lincoln and his team, Goodwin describes the broken friendship between Teddy Roosevelt and his chosen successor, William Howard Taft. With the help of the muckraking press including legendary journalists Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, William Allen White, and editor Sam McClure Roosevelt had wielded the Bully Pulpit to challenge and triumph over abusive monopolies, political bosses, and corrupting money brokers. Roosevelt led a revolution that he bequeathed to Taft only to see it compromised as Taft surrendered to money men and big business. The rupture between the two led Roosevelt to run against Taft for president, an ultimately futile race that resulted in the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson and the diminishment of Theodore Roosevelt s progressive wing of the Republican Party.

Like Goodwin's chronicles of the Civil War and the Great Depression, The Bully Pulpit describes a time in our history that enlightened and changed the country, ushered in the modern age, and produced some unforgettable men and women.

Publishing November 5, 2013 by Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Southern Festival of Books 2013!

The weekend before last, I went to the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville (my hometown) which I hadn't been to since moving away 13 years ago, and it was just as awesome as I remembered! It was also the 25th anniversary of the Festival. I got to hear and meet some authors I love and it was also very neat to run into people I knew on Legislative Plaza, just like you're supposed to. I love this sculpture on the corner of the downtown library - not just a stack of books, but a giant stack of books that's starting to look precarious!

Then here is a stack of books I bought that weekend. Most of these were at Parnassus Books, and a few were at the festival (also sold by Parnassus Books). All of the authors did signing after their events if you wanted to wait in line.

The first event I wanted to go to was cancelled so instead I hung out in the Women's National Book Association-Nashville chapter booth with the awesome Mary Grey James, Immediate Past President (National). We answered questions, told people about the organization, and hopefully got a few new members! (There are chapters in 10 cities and we'd love to have more so if you're not in Nashville, no worries! You can still join!)

Then I had lunch with my friend Mason at one of the many food trucks lining the Plaza. We picked the Grilled Cheeserie because, grilled cheese! Also turns out to be voted the best food truck in Nashville for the last three years. Mine was quite good (apples, goat cheese) but check out Mason's: macaroni and cheese, pimento cheese, grilled tomato! Isn't that crazy? Then we ran into our friend Nicole (and I ran into her again on Saturday! That's her at the bottom of the post in the The Color Purple T-shirt.)

I did plan to live tweet from all the events, which I did, but what I hadn't anticipated was how rude this may have appeared. Especially in the smaller events! I was just trying to promote the authors and the event, so I hope no one took it the wrong way (no one said anything or even gave me a dirty look so it may have been all in my head.) Follow me at @TwoEdsandaComma and @CarinBookbinder.

The afternoon of the first day I went to two events, the first a discussion with Elizabeth Cox and Robert Morgan about poetry (not really my thing but I love Elizabeth Cox). Jill McCorkle and Ron Rash were in the audience with me which was very cool!
Tweets: "Wanted to write in voices other than my own & wanted to tell stories I heard around the fireplace," Robert Morgan on why he switched to fiction

Then I went to a reading by Jill McCorkle, one of my all-time favorite authors! At the Jill McCorkle reading I ran into the director of the North Carolina Writer's Network, Ed Southern, and also a friend from college, Jeni! That was so serendipitous! 

Tweets: "I just think in the darkest times we humans continue to do and say the funniest things." -Jill McCorkle
And: "Your brain is always three steps ahead of where you're actually going so you need time to sit back and reflect."-Jill McCorkle
"If you have 3 readers whose opinions you trust and value and any 2 of them have a problem with something, you need to think about it."-Jill McCorkle

Saturday was the big day though! Both Friday and Sunday start at noon, but Saturday is all day, starting with the Coffee With Authors, sponsored by the WNBA and the signature event of National Reading Group Month! The event was introduced by Bebe Brechner, the president of the Nashville chapter, and Jill Tardiff, coordinator of National Reading Group Month. This year's featured authors were Jill McCorkle (Life After Life, Algonquin Books), Cathie Pelletier (The One-Way Bridge, Sourcebooks Landmark), John Milliken Thompson (Love and Lament, Other Press), Suzanne Rindell (The Other Typist, Amy Einhorn Books) and Margaret Wrinkle (Wash, Atlantic Monthly Press). The panel discussion was tricky to bring together all these disparate books, but WPLN's Nina Cardona did a terrific job. Afterwards, we WNBAers took the authors and Nina out to lunch and I got to sit across from Jill McCorkle (squee!) I did manage to act normal and just chat with her like a regular person until she was about to leave. Then I had to tell her how big a fan I am - I've read all of her novels, one book of short stories (which I don't like generally, so that's a big concession for me) and I own the other two short story collections. I told her how I first discovered her back in college when I was stressed and needed a fun distraction. My friend Jalyn introduced me to Ferris Beach, and soon afterwards I also read The Cheer Leader (not fun but amazing!) Luckily for me, she had to leave before I completely embarrassed myself.

Tweets: "An idea that comes up again and again in Wash is that each of us has a story." -Nina Cardona
And: Suzanne Rindell's novel was inspired by an obituary she read while researching her dissertation.
And: Cathie Pelletier's inspiration was a CNN story on a bridge being destroyed by ice in her hometown.
And: "The underbelly of humor should be sadness." -Cathie Pelletier
And: "My grandmother loved to tell these hair-raising, gothic tales." -John Milliken Thompson
And: "One of the ways you heal is by gaining mastery over your own story." -Margaret Wrinkle
And: "Authors don't write about things we know. We write about things we should know." -Cathie Pelletier
And: "The whole time these characters were coming to life, there were no big moments, but a compilation of fragments." -Jill McCorkle

Everyone also got a free bag of books at the Coffee With Authors, which you can see here. They were different so this isn't what everyone got.

After lunch I got to hear another favorite author, Bill Bryson. I am listening to his latest, One Summer: America, 1927, on audio right now and thoroughly enjoying it. I am also reading his Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It Right because I am that big a dork. I still haven't read his memoir and I think I need to prioritize it, as then I will have read everything of his except for his African Diary (which I believe is more of a coffee table book) and Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors which really is a dictionary. The one I'm reading now has longer entries with more explanation, and also isn't quite as long. I think I'm not quite nerdy enough to read an actual dictionary. He reads the audiobook, and honestly there was just a part where I thought - "Wait, I've heard this already! Did I screw up resuming where I left off?" Only to realize I'd heard him read that part at Southern Festival which is why I had heard it already, and in exactly the same voice. He was very funny.

Tweets: What would you like people to say about you in 100 years? Bill Bryson: "The amazing thing is, he's still sexually active."
And: Bill Bryson on avoiding a bear attack: always go hiking with someone slower than you.
And: If Bill Bryson wasn't a writer, his Plan B was playing shortstop for the Boston Red Sox.
And: A self-pub author once asked Bryson for a blurb. Knowing he was busy, the author included a list of blurbs and Bryson only need check one.

That last quote transitions perfectly to the last session I went to which was on Sunday, on marketing your book. (Do not send your self-published book to Bill Bryson with pre-written praise; that's not going to be effective for marketing.) I actually had an editing client come to this one! Kathie Bennett and Alison Law discussed book marketing and publicity and social media skills for authors.

Tweets: It takes a long time to build a platform so get started on your marketing strategy ASAP.
And: Publicizing yourself should be a daily habit. Commit to 1-3 hours/day.
And: Meet all booksellers w/in 100 miles and bring them cookies! Grow your relationships.
And: Remember, you're not promoting yourself, you're promoting something you love (your book).
And: Don't forget your website is your 24/7 business card so make sure it looks sharp!
And: Not only do you need to set up Twitter, Facebook etc. long before the book comes out, but you then need to post on those media!

Southern Festival was tons of fun and I most certainly will go again. I'd love to make it an annual thing, but we'll have to see. If you are anywhere remotely nearby the first weekend in October, do yourself a favor and go! See you on the plaza!

Teaser Tuesdays: Life With Jeeves

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!

Life With Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse p. 60

"Then they were my cats!" he said sadly. "Oh dash it!"
"Did you put cats in my bedroom?"

Yes, there were cats in Bertie's bedroom. It was all necessary though to get Sir Roderick's situation sorted, and Jeeves knew all about it, naturally.

Book Review: Life With Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

This book took me forever to read. But for the best possible reason. It's such a hilarious laugh-out-loud book, that I put it aside on reserve for times in my life when I was feeling particularly bad, to help cheer me up. And I am happy to say it took me three years to read it! What finally made me finish (and I had only read 1/3 at this point) was wedding planning. That was the most stressful thing to happen to me in the last three years (and three years ago I was laid off!)

These darling stories about the lovable dingbat Bertie Wooster and his long-suffering butler Jeeves are just a delight! Bertie is a wealthy young playboy who both wants to be in love but not tied down, and who is surprisingly doted on by his family and friends, although to be honest most of them come to Bertie as a means to get advice from Jeeves (and a couple do dispense with that pretense altogether.) Bertie often resents their implication that he cannot come up with a good solution to the problem at hand and so he sometimes tries to force the person with the problem to try his idea instead of Jeeves, which never works out. Bertie drinks too much, has a penchant for gaudy clothes that Jeeves resents (and which usually have come to an unpleasant demise by the end of the story), and is a pretty upbeat and positive guy. I'm sure he's be wonderfully fun to have a drink with. But if you're life's gone down the crapper, Jeeves is your man.

Another reason it took me so long to read this is that it's awfully long, being three books compiled into one with a pretty darn small font. Still, when I was reading it, it was a very fast read. The first two books, "The Inimitable Jeeves" and "Very Good, Jeeves" are basically short story collections, although frequently the next story does begin in the last paragraph of the previous one. But the last book, "Right Ho, Jeeves," is a novel. Each chapter does have a new problem, but it is all of one situation, and it lasts so long due to Bertie being annoyed with Jeeves's constant correct advice and refusing to listen to it or let him give it to Bertie's suffering family and friends involved. Only when Bertie has completely mucked everything up and everyone hates him, does he finally let Jeeves step in to save the day.

It is a particularly British sense of humor, so if you are turned off by Monte Python or Fawlty Towers, this book might not be your cup of tea. But if you're even slightly enamored of England and would love a good laugh, you can't go wrong with Bertie and Jeeves.

I have owned this book for so many years, I have no idea how I acquired it. That said, it predates my blog so certainly I did not get it by promising a review.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review: If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother by Julia Sweeney

Julia Sweeney, while one of the funniest cast members ever of SNL in my opinion, always struck me as deeper and more real than some of her fellow funny-men. I particularly was intrigued by her guest star role on an episode of Sex and the City where she played a nun with cancer, who was sitting next to Samantha at a doctor's office day after day, trying to get in to see a superb specialist. I'd heard that her monologues were great and wished I lived in a city where I could go see them. She was also on an episode of Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me last year and I've been sad she hasn't returned. So when I read good reviews of her new book and heard her interviewed, I just had to get it. As usual with a memoir, I got the audio, and it was so much better than reading a print book because she does a few impressions (most hilariously of her daughter), and you can hear in her intonation when she thought something or someone was particularly funny or exasperating in a way you cannot in print.

The book is structured to take place over a four week period when she has her house to herself. Her daughter, Mulan, is away at camp, and her husband Michael is on a series of business trips. So the book is in four parts, corresponding to the four weeks. Initially she's talking about failed relationships (all her exes are referred to as "Joe" which I love and think I will adopt myself), adopting her daughter, and then meting and marrying her husband (yes, in that order). But unexpectedly in week three, her brother dies of addiction-related issues. As a lifelong addict, his death on one level wasn't a surprise, but as he had rallied from bad places so many times before, it still was, and Julia was alone and very sad. I was already loving the book, but this added dimension of depth and reality made the book even better.

It's not a comedy routine by any means, although Julia's humor does shine through throughout. I particularly loved the conversation she had explaining sex to her daughter ("But where to the legs go!?") And it was structured nicely without many of the short digressions one often finds in a memoir like this. She does have one though, with her mother-in-law, which is a recording of a conversation they had that ended up being their personal stories about abortion, which was powerful and in the mother-in-law's case, quite horrifying since that was in pre-Roe days. She also lets her daughter read a very short essay which was quite unintentionally funny. These are segments I think that are more powerful on an audio than in print.

It was perfect for a long drive and I didn't want it to end. I think I will now try to hunt down some of her monologues and see if there's a way for me to listen to them. Loved it.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother by Julia Sweeney (audio)
I, Rhoda by Valerie Harper (audio)

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Moonrise by Cassandra King
Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It Right by Bill Bryson
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson (audio)

Up next:
The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Review: I, Rhoda by Valerie Harper and Ivy Pochoda

I loved Rhoda Morgenstern when I was in my early 20s. Initially, I was drawn to Mary Richards, but eventually I came to identify less with Mary's perfect job, perfect hair, perfect boyfriends, and perfect apartment, and more with Rhoda's messy life, okay job, terrible boyfriends, tiny apartment, and weight worries. So I was eager to find out more about Valerie Harper, the actress who embodied her. I listened to this book on audio as Ms. Harper read it herself. It was a little sad that her "Rhoda" Bronx accent was not in evidence, but I got used to it quickly.

Her childhood was great for a child wanting a life on the stage. Her parents were unusually supportive, including allowing Valerie to stay in New York at a housing facility for "working girls" (working in the entertainment industry, not prostitutes!) when her mother and siblings moved back to the West Coast. She was always a dancer and after years of performing in everything from Broadway shows to Radio City Music Hall to industry shows, she and her husband moved to California and a casting director saw her in a play and wanted her to come read for Mary Tyler Moore's new show. Playing Rhoda was her very first role in TV or movies, and the cast and crew and producers were so supportive and familial, it was a dream job. But the dream came to a jarring end years later when starring in her own show, "Valerie," she discovered what life was like when the producers and writers did not even talk to the cast, let alone get along with them. She ended up getting fired, and suing to get her name back. She then divorced, remarried, acted in a lot of made-for-TV-movies, and got back into stage plays, eventually starring in a couple of one-woman shows and playing Golda Meir and Tallulah Bankhead and being nominated for a Tony. Eventually she, like her mother and step-mother, was diagnosed with lung cancer despite never smoking, but she battled that too with her characteristic positive attitude.

I could have skipped the part about EST and their end hunger campaign. Although I liked the parts about when she was fighting for the ERA, so maybe the political parts I didn't like were the ones I disagreed with or wasn't interested in. But that was my only real quibble in the book. Valerie was very positive throughout, talking about her love of her new step-mother, the joys of step-parenting herself, the congenial divorce from her first husband with no drama, and how she adopted her daughter. She has a lot of life-long friends and while there certainly was some name-dropping, that's inevitable for a book on someone in the entertainment industry. (My favorite was when a young man came to do some carpentry work for Valerie, and after he injured himself, she advised him to focus on his acting. Yep, it was Harrison Ford.)

Overall the book was sweet and nice. Not a tearjerker, not a gossip, not much drama or trauma (and this from a woman currently suffering from incurable brain cancer! Although that diagnosis came after the book was released.) It was just a good story well told about a woman who lived an interesting life and met some interesting people along the way. If you're a fan, you'll enjoy it.

I downloaded this book from Audible.

Book Beginnings: Life With Jeeves

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.

Life With Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

"Morning, Jeeves," I said.

I could have made this longer, but it doesn't help. Suffice to say, Bertie's day nearly always starts so normally, until his friends or family show up on his doorstep look for his help, or more properly, Jeeves's help.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Heart of Everything That Is

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

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the bestselling tradition of Empire of the Summer Moon, this is the untold story of Red Cloud, the most powerful Indian commander of the Plains who witnessed the opening of the West.

The great Oglala Sioux chief Red Cloud was the only Plains Indian to defeat the United States Army in a war, forcing the American government to sue for peace in a conflict named for him. At the peak of their chief’s powers, the Sioux could claim control of one-fifth of the contiguous United States. But unlike Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, or Geronimo, the fog of history has left Red Cloud strangely obscured. Now, thanks to painstaking research by two award-winning authors, his incredible story can finally be told.

Born in 1821 in what is now Nebraska, Red Cloud grew up an orphan who overcame myriad social disadvantages to advance in Sioux culture. Through fearless raids against neighboring tribes, like the Crow and Pawnee, he acquired a reputation as the best leader of his fellow warriors, catapulting him into the Sioux elite—and preparing him for the epic struggle his nation would face with an expanding United States. Drawing on a wealth of evidence that includes Red Cloud’s 134-page autobiography, lost for nearly a hundred years, Bob Drury and Tom Clavin bring their subject to life again in a narrative that climaxes with Red Cloud’s War—a conflict whose massacres presaged the Little Bighorn and ensured Red Cloud’s place in the pantheon of Native American legends.

A story as big as the West, with portraits of General William Tecumsah Sherman, explorer John Bozeman, mountain man Jim Bridger, Red Cloud protégé Crazy Horse, and many others, The Heart of Everything That Is not only places you at the center of the conflict over western expansion, but finally gives our nation’s greatest Indian war leader the modern-day recognition he deserves.

Publishing November 5, 2013 by Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: Salvage the Bones

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!

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward p. 27

"When we were little, Big Henry used to let me ride on his back in the deep part of the pit, the part that was lined with oyster shells. He used to carry me so my feet wouldn't get cut, even though his feet were as bare as mine."

Aw, Big Henry has liked Esch for a very long time.

Book Review: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

I wasn't particularly excited to read a book about Hurricane Katrina, but a book club is partly for expanding what I read. And I liked it pretty well, but I don't think it was National Book Award Winner good.

Esch and her brothers and father live in a falling down shack in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. Esch has recently figured out she's pregnant, her brother Skeetah is doting on his prize pit bull who has just given birth and he hopes to finally make some money from the puppies, her brother Randall is working on his basketball hoping it's a way out of Bois Sauvage, and the baby Junior is just getting into trouble and trying to keep up. As they all go about their usual scraping-by existence, their father starts to prepare for the big storm he's been hearing about, but nothing can truly prepare any of them for Katrina, and they will all be tested.

I was surprised by how late in the book the storm hits. And the language was difficult. All Esch's brother's friends were hard to keep straight, and her own name was confusing and only mentioned 1-2 times so it was hard to even remember who our main character was. That said, the language and the characters got a lot easier as the book went on, and it was a great discussion book as there were a lot of interesting themes and topics. But it just wasn't my cup of tea. And it's not because of the poverty or the awful lives these teens had, but it didn't help. I felt the patois was a bit put-on and used as a way to distance readers from the characters unnecessarily (their lives were foreign enough) and the actual climax was very confusing. I wish it had read more smoothly and that there was a little more of a resolution than there was.

I bought this book from my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books.

Monday, October 14, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore
Girl Land by Caitlin Flanagan

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It Right by Bill Bryson
Moonrise by Cassandra King

Up next:
One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
I, Rhoda by Valerie Harper
Killing Floor by Lee Child

Friday, October 11, 2013

Book Beginnings: Salvage the Bones

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.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

"China's turned on herself."

China is the dog, a pit-bull, and she's giving birth to puppies, so it kind of makes sense, but I also have known dogs to groom themselves to the point of injuring themselves, so that's the image that comes to mind.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Candy

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

Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure by Samira Kawash

Description from Goodreads:
A lively cultural history that explores how candy in America became food and how food became more like candy

Many adults who wouldn’t dream of indulging in a Snickers bar or jelly beans feel fine snacking on sports bars and giving their children fruit snacks. For most Americans, candy is enjoyed guiltily and considered the most unhealthy thing we eat. But why? Candy accounts for less than ten percent of the added sugar in the American diet. And at least it’s honest about what it is—a processed food, eaten for pleasure, with no particular nutritional benefit. What should really worry consumers is the fact that today every aisle in the supermarket contains highly manipulated products that have all the qualities of candy. So how did our definitions of food and candy come to be so muddled?

Candy tells the strange, fascinating story of how candy evolved in America and how it became a scapegoat for all our fears about the changing nature of food. Samira Kawash takes us from the moral crusaders at the turn of the century, who blamed candy for everything from poisoning to alcoholism to sexual depravity; to the reason why the government made candy an essential part of rations during World War I (and how the troops came back craving it like never before); to current worries about hyperactivity, cavities, and obesity.

Candy is an essential, addictive read for anyone who loves lively cultural history, who cares about food, and who wouldn’t mind feeling a bit better about eating candy.

Publishing October 15, 2013 by Faber & Faber.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Book Review: Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Changed America by Les Standiford

Did you see the miniseries last year on the robber barons, The Men Who Built America? It was great. And one of the more fascinating stories was the story of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick, the guy who endowed hundreds of libraries, and the guy who created my favorite museum. Turns out they were both grade-A jerks, although in entirely different ways.

Both pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and worked their buns off to create massive companies -- Carnegie in steel and Frick in coke (an essential ingredient in steel). Frick hit a ceiling in his business pretty early on but instead of changing to a different industry altogether, he was hired to run Carnegie Steel, putting his income on par with other magnates like Carnegie. It was a good relationship for both of them because Carnegie got to disappear to Scotland and other estates and leave the dirty business of running the steel mills to Frick, a man who never backed down from a fight no matter how petty. Carnegie on the other hand got his feelings hurt easily and would lie a blue streak just to get people to like him, while stabbing them in the back. Frick would tell you to your face what he thought of you. They were very yin and yang.

Unfortunately, their partnership lead to a couple of colossal catastrophes. The first was the flood in Johnstown, PA which was caused by Frick and Carnegie's club both narrowing and refusing to maintain a massive dam it sat atop. When it failed, more than two thousand people were killed. The second and more famous was the Homestead Strike, when Frick brought in Pinkerton Detectives as guards, but due to a couple of foreseeable problems with getting the Pinkertons into the mill, they were pretty much slaughtered by a mob of striking workers, leaving at least 14 killed, 34 seriously injured, and 305 somewhat injured, and causing the National Guard to be called in by the governor. Two weeks after the incident, Frick was attacked by an anarchist assassin who would have killed him had his gun not jammed. Two weeks after the assassination attempt, Frick's baby son died. As much of a jerk as he was, it did seem that Frick had had a tough time of it and he soldiered on.

Meanwhile, Carnegie washed his hands of everything including Frick. Carnegie had signed off on Frick's plans at Homestead, but afterwards he maneuvered to have Frick removed from his position. The two men never had the same relationship and in fact spent their latter years not speaking to each other. Carnegie, the guilt-ridden man who always wanted everyone to like him, started giving his money away as an effort to buy his way into people forgetting about Homestead. I would say that after more than a century, he's been successful as your average American probably never heard of that dreadful part of U.S. labor history. But Frick, who knew exactly what had happened behind the scenes, never absolved Carnegie's guilt. In their old age when Carnegie made overtures of peace, Frick said he'd talk to Carnegie when they were both dead since they both knew they were both going to hell. In some ways Frick was the much bigger asshole, but I appreciated his honesty about it. Carnegie was a whiner not willing to stand behind his decisions and more than happy to throw other people under the bus whenever possible.

Two very fascinating jerks who helped shaped America today. This was a riveting book that was hard to put down, in the same way it's hard to look away from a car accident.

I bought this at the independent bookstore on Jekyll Island, Georgia, which was a favorite vacation spot for various robber barons of the Gilded Age.

Teaser Tuesdays: Meet You in Hell

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!

Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Changed America by Les Standiford p. 40

"It was that very concept of equal opportunity which had given young Andrew Carnegie the sense that he could outstrip his humble origins, and that formed the basis of his eternal gratitude for the "land of opportunity" that allowed him his meteoric rise. So while Carnegie could be ruthless in his pursuit of material success, he could be equally passionate in his defense of justice for the common man."

I am constantly surprised that people who made it from nothing, seem to forget where they come from. It sounds like Carnegie didn't. Although in this era, the discrepancy between the wealthy and poor was nearly as great as it would ever be. (Only surpassed by 1929, and today.)