March 25, 2010 by Reader's Connection
At least two books by Indiana authors in April, at least two relating to Louisa May Alcott, at least three by prize-winning authors (an Anthony Award for Larsson, a Nobel Prize for Morrison & an Audubon Medal for Carson) and at least one featuring an immortal witch. Three March book discussions are still coming our way, two of them this very night.
After releasing two well-regarded novels in the 1990s, She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, both of which were Oprah’s Book Club picks, Lamb disappeared from the fiction landscape, preferring to focus on his work teaching writing workshops at York Correctional Institute?until now. The Hour I First Believed follows a woman who moves from Colorado to Connecticut following the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy. During a public reading in Connecticut, Lamb said he found the spark for the new novel, in New Orleans, where he prayed for inspiration in a French Quarter church. One week later, he had the first sentence of his book: “My mother was a convicted felon, a manic depressive, and Miss Rheingold of 1950.” Well, do you want to read more? — BookPage
In January 1946, London is beginning to recover from World War II, and Juliet Ashton is looking for a subject for her next book. She spent the war years writing a column for the Times until her own dear flat became a victim of a German bomb. While sifting through the rubble and reconstructing her life, she receives a letter from a man on Guernsey, the British island occupied by the Germans . . . So begins a correspondence that draws Juliet into the community of Guernsey and the members of the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Named to protect its members from arrest by the Germans, the society shares their unique love of literature and life with a newfound friend. Seeing this as the subject of her next book, Juliet sails to Guernsey–a voyage that will change her life . . . this is a warm, funny, tender, and thoroughly entertaining celebration of the power of the written word. – Library Journal
Stitched into the heartwarming second installment of Bostwick’s contemporary New England quilters series (after 2008’s A Single Thread) is an unbreakable thread of friendship and faith. Following a pattern similar to her first (in which shop owner Evelyn Dixon fought breast cancer), Bostwick centers the action around a serious struggle: on the run from an abusive husband, Ivy Peterman and her children, Bethany and Bobby, find refuge in the New Bern, Conn., women’s shelter. There, Ivy meets philanthropist Abigail Burgess Wynne and through her lands a job at Evelyn’s shop, Cobbled Court Quilts . . . Bostwick switches effortlessly from Ivy’s poignant story to quilting circle updates, keeping fans in the loop and on their toes with a surprising bit of marriage news. — Publishers Weekly
Brooks’s luminous second novel imagines the Civil War experiences of Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. An idealistic Concord cleric, March becomes a Union chaplain and later finds himself assigned to be a teacher on a cotton plantation that employs freed slaves, or “contraband.” His narrative begins with cheerful letters home, but March gradually reveals to the reader what he does not to his family: the cruelty and racism of Northern and Southern soldiers, the violence and suffering he is powerless to prevent and his reunion with Grace, a beautiful, educated slave whom he met years earlier as a Connecticut peddler to the plantations. In between, we learn of March’s earlier life: his whirlwind courtship of quick-tempered Marmee, his friendship with Emerson and Thoreau and the surprising cause of his family’s genteel poverty. When a Confederate attack on the contraband farm lands March in a Washington hospital, sick with fever and guilt, the first-person narrative switches to Marmee, who describes a different version of the years past and an agonized reaction to the truth she uncovers about her husband’s life. — Publishers Weekly
The story of Dinah is one of the most shocking in the Bible. The only daughter of Jacob is raped by a Canaanite prince, and in revenge, Jacob’s sons trick the Canaanites and murder them. Here Diamant gives the ever-silent Dinah her own voice, and the story she tells is a much different one, one in which she is not raped but loved by the Canaanite–and then cruelly betrayed by her brothers. This is also a saga of women, of Dinah and her four mothers, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah, the wives of Jacob, who all raised her. The women of Jacob’s family live the most important parts of their lives in the red tent, where women go once a month, where they have their babies, and where they tell their stories. In the Bible, emphasis is placed, above all, on the importance of bearing sons, but as Diamant tells it, “Women wanted daughters to keep their memories alive,” and this novel is rich with memory. Diamant is a wonderful storyteller, not only bringing to life these women about whom the Bible tells us so little but also stirringly evoking a place and time. — Booklist
Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which won two Anthony Awards back in October, one for Best First Novel and one for Best Cover Art, will be discussed at Central Library on Tuesday, April 6th at 6:00 p.m.
Convicted of libeling a prominent businessman and awaiting imprisonment, financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist agrees to industrialist Henrik Vanger’s request to investigate the 40-year-old disappearance of Vanger’s 16-year-old niece, Harriet. In return, Vanger will help Blomkvist dig up dirt on the corrupt businessman. Assisting in Blomkvist’s investigation is 24-year-old Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but enigmatic computer hacker. Punkish, tattooed, sullen, antisocial, and emotionally damaged, she is a compelling character, much like Carol O’Connell’s Kathy Mallory, and this reviewer looks forward to learning more of her backstory in the next two books (The Girl Who Played with Fire and Castles in the Sky ). Sweden may be the land of blondes, Ikea, and the Midnight Sun, but Larsson, who died in 2004, brilliantly exposes its dark heart: sexual violence against women, a Nazi past, and corporate corruption. — Library Journal
Lisa Scottoline’s Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog: The Amazing Adventures of an Ordinary Woman will be discussed at the Brightwood Library on Tuesday, April 6th at 6:00 p.m.
Can a suspense novelist begin a double life as a weekly humor columnist? Just ask Scottoline, who collects some 70 “Chick Wit” columns she wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer.Such a venture is not a huge stretch for a writer whose novels of legal suspense have always depended as much on witty dialogue as on mysterious plots. Scottoline’s choice of topics is impressively broad: movie-theater candy, expensive bras, Valentine’s Day, the upside of interrupting (“I would never be so rude as to not interrupt a friend. How else would she know I was listening?”), the sensual joys of hot flashes and the dream of getting tattooed. As both her choice of topics and her title make clear, men like Thing One and Thing Two, her ex-husbands, form no part of the target audience of this “mix tape for moms and girls.” — Kirkus Reviews
When Steve Cline accepts his horse-trainer father’s invitation to spend two weeks at Churchill Downs as one of two caregivers for Kentucky Derby contender Gallant Storm, he looks forward to an idyllic respite from his normal duties as a barn manager in Maryland. Cline wouldn’t be in his fourth crime mystery at the tender age of 23 if he weren’t a magnet for trouble, however, and within days of arriving in Louisville, he has befriended a young woman who soon turns up dead. Quickly, Cline has become the target of both the police and a couple of thugs bent on mayhem. His attempts to find out why the young woman was killed lead him deep into the exclusive world of Bluegrass bluebloods, where he becomes increasingly at risk as he gets closer to uncovering a shameful secret. There is plenty of action here, all set against the excitement and pageantry of the buildup to America’s greatest horse race. Neither race fans nor devotees of suspense will be disappointed. — Booklist
Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe’s house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe’s terrible secret explodes into the present. Combining the visionary power of legend with the unassailable truth of history, Morrison’s unforgettable novel is one of the great and enduring works of American literature. — Publisher’s note
The East 38th Street Library will host a discussion of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia on Monday, April 12th at 6:00 p.m.
Realizing that her marriage was over and that her life needed serious therapy, she headed to Rome to eat and flirt and enjoy. Satiated on gelato, olive oil, and pasta, she moved on to an ashram in India to practice yoga and meditation before finally traveling to Bali, where she finds new love. Honest, funny, and endearing, Gilbert learns about herself and how she wishes to inhabit the world. — Library Journal
Urban Brown is a white man who grew up in the dark recesses of the inner city where he was the victim of torment, abuse, abandonment, deception and murder. Urban overcame his horrid past to live a peaceful and prosperous existence in his upper-class community. He has everything a man could ask for: a career, which he loves; a sprawling estate and a drop-dead gorgeous fiancée, Sierra. Then out of the blue, he receives a phone call that changes his life . . . Dark Child is a chilling story about the untold struggles of the disenfranchised that inspiringly illustrates how one man is not able to turn his back on the problems of his former community — even though he so desperately wants to leave that troubled place in his past forever. — Publisher’s note
A beautiful, brilliant chemist, Giada Shepherd is an immortal witch charged with saving the life of Logan MacRoy, the mortal son of a vampire. Passionately attracted to Giada, Logan has no idea that sex would turn him into a vampire. And no, as a killer sets deadly traps for them, the truth must come out, as must a weapon they never counted on: love . . . Publisher’s note
Haven Kimmel´s She Got Up Off the Couch: and Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana will be discussed at the Lawrence Library on Tuesday, April 20th at 10:15 a.m.
Zippy Jarvis is, in many ways, a typical kid growing up in 1960s rural Indiana: riding bikes with her friends, spending the obligatory summer at camp, and enduring the teasing of her older, beautiful sister, Melinda. In this wry, wistful sequel to best-seller A Girl Named Zippy (2001), the candid preteen shares the spotlight with her mother, Delonda, a longtime sofa dweller, who decides, once and for all, “to get up off the couch” and go to college (she learns to drive and loses more than 100 pounds, too). Kimmel writes convincingly from a child’s perspective, with engaging accounts of characters encountered by the Jarvis clan . . . Zippy’s father is the most reprehensible of the bunch–a racist adulterer who resents his wife’s success. Kimmel deftly blends mordant humor and malaise in this tale of personal triumph in a tiny midwestern town. — Booklist
From the publisher’s note: First published by Houghton Mifflin in 1962, Silent Spring alerted a large audience to the environmental and human dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides, spurring revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. “Silent Spring became a runaway bestseller, with international reverberations….It is well crafted, fearless and succinct….Even if she had not inspired a generation of activists, Carson would prevail as one of the greatest nature writers in American letters” (Peter Matthiessen, for Time’s 100 Most Influential People of the Century).
Reisen’s love for Little Women and curiosity about the author became a grand obsession, inspiring her to write the screenplay for the first Alcott documentary and this uniquely vital and dramatic biography. Reisen’s cinematic eye brings Louisa to whirling life as a coltish, fearless girl of “explosive exuberance” and sharp intellect, while she portrays Louisa’s parents with compassion and criticism: blue-blooded Abigail, continually pregnant, impossibly burdened, yet resilient and innovative; utopian Bronson, famous for his progressive ideas, infamous for his incompetence. Alcott inherited her mother’s pragmatism and courage and a touch of her father’s vision and madness and bravely struggled through a crazy-quilt childhood of wretched poverty and social privilege–their closest friends were the luminaries Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau, whom Alcott loved. She supported the family, laboring as a laundress, teaching, and serving as an army nurse in the Civil War while “training herself as a businesswoman as well as a fast, versatile pen for hire.” . . . Here, finally, is Alcott whole, a trailblazing woman grasping freedom in a time of sexual inequality and war, a survivor of cruel tragedies, a quintessential American writer. — Booklist
Some of the most thought-provoking Holocaust books are about bystanders, including those who say they did not know what was happening. This first novel tells the bystander story from the viewpoint of an innocent child. Bruno is nine when his family moves from their luxurious Berlin home to the country, where “the Fury” has appointed Bruno’s father commandant. Lost and lonely, the child hates the upheaval, while his stern but kind father celebrates his success because he has learned to follow orders. Bruno can see a concentration camp in the distance, but he has no idea what is going on, even when he eventually meets and makes friends with Shmuel, a boy from Cracow, who lives on the other side of the camp fence. The boys meet every day. They even discover that they have the same birthday . . . Shmuel is Bruno’s alternative self, and as the story builds to a horrifying climax, the innocent’s experience brings home the unimaginable horror. — Booklist
Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey will be discussed at the Franklin Road Library on Thursday, April 29th at 6:30 p.m.
On the morning of December 10, 1996 Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain . . . she observed her own mind completely deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life, all within the space of four brief hours . . . Taylor alternated between two distinct and opposite realties: the euphoric nirvana of the intuitive and kinesthetic right brain, in which she felt a sense of complete well-being and peace; and the logical, sequential left brain, which recognized Jill was having a stroke, and enabled her to seek help before she was lost completely. In My Stroke of Insight, Taylor shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery — Publisher’s Note