Regular Contributor Amy Pence is with this season’s poetry review. If you are a lover of poetry this one seems like it will not disappoint, but it also looks like it would be great for just the casual poetry reader and a nice change from you normal spring and summer reading!
Lee Rossi is a master portraitist. Reading his third collection Wheelchair Samurai (Plain View Press, 2011), I’m reminded of Van Gogh’s honest rendering of his friends and neighbors such as “Roulin’s Baby” (often referred to as the “green baby”) that hangs in the National Gallery.
His vision is wry and sometimes brutal; he sees to the core. In “Yakuza in the Jacuzzi,” the speaker sends up his sister’s mobster boyfriend “floating like a walrus in the giant/ redwood crockpot behind their house.” His appraisal continues:
…all I really want is to scrub away those awful tattoos
covering the drive-in movie screen of his back—
geishas with shotguns, samurai in wheelchairs,
Fuji-san about to blow its top
and drown Edo in a sea of fire.
Like Van Gogh, in both his portraits and his landscapes, the strokes may be broad, but Read More
Regular contributor Denise Neary shares her latest discovery. Book Clubs… this one’s for you!
Two months later, and I am on my third….and my book club has discussed two, Night Road and Winter Garden.
If your club is looking for books to spark some great conversation, consider Hannah.
You know the adage; don’t judge a book by its cover?
Well, I do….and had decided that Hannah’s books were a little too light for me. (Don’t even bother asking me if I can name all the Kardashian children….I can. So how I come up with these rules about substance is, to say the least, a little nuanced.)
I don’t always love Hannah’s books….but, once started, I can’t put them down. She Read More
Regular Contributor Shannon Ross is back today with her take on the THE MARRIAGE PLOT by Jeffrey Euginedes. I’m pretty sure I’m the one who loaned her MIDDLESEX, so I’m taking credit for her wanting to read more of an author I introduced her to!
This fall I was excited to learn of Jeffrey Eugenides’ most recent novel, The Marriage Plot. It was only in 2010 that I first read Eugenides’ highly acclaimed Middlesex, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I had high hopes for this next novel. Despite reading a review indicating that this contribution was not as impressive, the plot seemed of interest and I was enthusiastic to give it a try. Reflecting the public interest in the novel, there was a long waiting list at my local library, and several weeks later I picked up my copy.
As the novel opens, the story focuses on Madeleine Hanna who is a Brown University senior on her graduation weekend (class of ’82), without much of a post-graduation plan. In fact, many of the students do not have set plans, due to a high unemployment rate (suggestive of our current job market). Madeleine is dealing at the moment with her overeager yet well-meaning parents who are visiting for graduation, and more chronically with a recent breakup that has contributed to her lack of direction.
We are introduced to Mitchell Grammaticus as Madeleine runs into him during a breakfast Read More
Regular Contributor Shannon Ross is back with a review of THE WAKE OF FORGIVENESS by Bruce Machart. I would’ve probably judged this one by its cover, so I’m glad we have Shannon to dig a little deeper!
Need a post holiday book escape? Bruce Machart’s The Wake of Forgiveness tells the story of the Skala family and provides a fascinating glimpse into the rural Texas town of Dalton at the turn of the 19th century.
The story features Karel Skala, the fourth son of Czech immigrant Vaclav Skala, who in the first pages enters the world while losing his mother in childbirth. Vaclav, instead of compensating for his sons’ lack of a mother, is tyrannical in raising his children, hitching them to the plow daily in a display of his hostility to those who took his beloved wife from him. After his wife’s death, Vaclav is known throughout town as a bitter man, and only takes solace in his two prize racing horses.
The arrival of Guillermo Villaseñor to Dalton, with his abundant riches and three beautiful teenage daughters, causes the townspeople of Dalton to take notice. All but Vaclav, who ignores this new resident until Villaseñor arrives at his farm to offer his three daughters’ hands in marriage, with a generous cash and land dowry for each. Vaclav turns down this offer, unwilling to give up his sons as manual labor. Villaseñor ups the ante by offering a wager over horseracing: if Vaclav’s horse wins then he keeps his sons and acquires the new land, if Villaseñor’s wins, the sons are his grooms. Vaclav is intrigued by this wager and confidently readies his youngest Karel as jockey for the race.
Over the coming days, Karel becomes secretly acquainted with his opponent, the expert Read More
Neal Stephenson is one of those authors that I have been meaning to read for years. When I had my Indy bookstore we stocked his books and I was always intrigued but somehow never got around to it. Perhaps it was the size of the weighty tomes (I’ve been waiting for an excuse to say “weighty tomes” for some time now, so thanks Neal!) that kept me away. After all, so much to read, so little time. But now I can finally check Neal Stephenson off my list. Or can I? I started with his newest, REAMDE, and I have to admit I felt a little unsure about not starting with one of his earlier works. If you’re a Neal Stephenson fan, feel free to school me. Anyway, now…having read (okay listened to REAMDE) I gotta admit I’m a little hooked. So instead of being able to check Neal off my list, I’m going to have to go back and read some more of his stuff. Kinda glad I weighted until I had an eReader so I don’t have tote those giant bricks around with me!
So – on to the review: REAMDE is a story that in many ways takes place in two worlds, the real world and the world of T’Rain, an online game that has become more popular than World of Warcraft. As someone who is not a gamer, it felt a little bit like historical fiction for me, in that I was getting to learn about a world I know very little about. It also felt like the “real world” in the case of this story became very much like the game world… with characters moving around the world, picking up and losing weapons and money, and battling and killing each other that would not be normal in the REAL real world. If you’re not a gamer, don’t let that turn you off because I can also compare Read More
Regular contributor Denise Neary is back today with a book recommendation for baseball lovers who are lamenting the end of the season and the long wait until spring!
Is there someone in your house aching with love over baseball? What I don’t know about sports is endless—but I have a book to suggest for those who love baseball.
My husband, who reads and talks about books all of the time, is completely anti-book club. Little does he know that he and his friends are an informal book club….they just don’t meet on any sort of schedule.
The book, PROPHET OF THE SANDLOTS: Journeys with a Major League Scout by Mark Winegardner, is a favorite in our house: I suggest you consider it as a holiday gift for a baseball fan in yours. (It is out of print, but used copies are available.)
From Library Journal:
“Tony Lucadello, likely to be the first scout to be inducted into Cooperstown, related to Winegardner during their trips through the Midwest the tricks of the trade in identifying and signing future major leaguers. Winegardner is reminiscent of David Halberstam in his Read More
There’s always something that draws a reader to a book… a beautiful cover, an interesting podcast (shameless self-promotion), a recommendation from a friend or a great review. But I have to be honest, I picked up (okay downloaded) BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl because it was on sale for $2.99 on my Kindle. In fairness, I was also drawn to the groovy cover art and was looking for something that I just WANTED to read… not something I HAD to read for book club or an author interview or whatever.
So – there I sat with what I was hoping would be a fast-paced, super-natural, young adult book that would keep me entertained. You’ll be happy to know — I was not disappointed.
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is the story of Ethan Wate – a regular old mortal teenage boy and the new girl that moves to his hometown, the small (fictional) town of Gatlin, South Carolina. But of course, the new girl, Lena Duchannes, is no ordinary girl. She is a Caster. From a long line of Casters whose fates have been mixed, Lena believes she is doomed to become “dark” on her sixteenth birthday. As the story unfolds, Lena and Ethan Read More
Regular contributor Shannon Ross is back with today’s review of THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY.
Heidi Durrow’s Bellwether Prize Winning novel THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY encircles race, family, and tragedy in a coming-of-age novel about a bi-racial girl transplanted from Europe to Portland, OR in the early 1980s. The daughter of a Danish mother, Nella and a black G.I. father, Rachel is a bi-racial girl who does not see herself as black or white, only as her parents’ child. When family circumstances bring Rachel to the US and tragedy strikes her mother and siblings, Rachel finds herself living with her black grandmother in Portland isolated from everything she has known.
As a pre-teen living in a predominantly black US neighborhood, Rachel quickly learns two lessons: kids self-segregate into white and black friend groups, and being bi-racial means you don’t fit into either. The majority of the story focuses on how Rachel thinks and grows as she interacts with her classmates and new family, and through this process details are revealed about Rachel’s parents and the family tragedy. This unveiling is assisted by interspersed chapters in the Read More
Regular contributor Denise Neary is back today with a review of a book you may have missed last year. I know I did. THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF RACHEL DUPREE came out in 2010 and is described by the Chicago Sun Times as ”An eye-opening look at the little-explored area of a black frontier woman in the American West.” That gives you some idea – but here’s what Denise had to say:
I loved, loved, loved Ann Weisgarber‘s THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF RACHEL DUPREE.
I don’t know if I would have found it if a friend hadn’t suggested that I read it.
This particular friend has never steered me wrong, but this time his recommendation was: ”I think you’d like it.”
Not a lot to go on. But I am so glad he didn’t say more.
If he had told me some of it, in straight facts, would I have gone for it?
A woman so in love with a man she agrees to give him her homestead right so the two can marry and ranch in the badlands? Would have I intuited the strength and the dignity of Rachel? Would I have understood her sense of excitement as she was off to forge her new world? Her fears, her Read More
Fall is here and our poetry guru and regular contributor Amy Pence is back after taking the summer off to travel. (Lucky duck!) This month she brings us a review of the newest work by Jane Hirshfield.
Steal Away with Jane: A Review of Come, Thief
I imagine that Jane Hirshfield lives in a stone cottage overlooking a gray-blue reflecting pond (where she can reflect undisturbed and without constantly checking her email) or perhaps she is ensconced in an ashram in a complicated yoga position. From her poetry, you wouldn’t think that she ever sits in traffic, charges an endless number of hand-held devices, or sorts through a sticky recycling bin. This is a poetry of rain, plum blossoms, salt, olives—and loss. You know, all the elementals. The closest Hirshfield gets to our post-modern world today is a “plastic container” in the poem “Perishable, It Said.”
A devotee of her instructive book of essays on writing, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, I frankly want to BE Jane Hirshfield—at least during that hour a day when I’m Read More