October 21, 2010 by Reader's Connection
We have four October book discussions still coming our way, and an author visit as part of the Irvington Halloween Festival.
These first two discussions have had date or time changes. Thanks to Diane for her heads up about the Pike discussion.
The astonishing saga of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s survival for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas, as Time magazine put it, “defined heroism.” Alfred Lansing’s scrupulously researched and brilliantly narrated book — with over 200,000 copies sold — has long been acknowledged as the definitive account of the Endurance’s fateful trip. To write their authoritative story, Lansing consulted with ten of the surviving members and gained access to diaries and personal accounts by eight others. — Publisher’s note
In Barry’s captivating debut, Towner Whitney, a dazed young woman descended from a long line of mind readers and fortune tellers, has survived numerous traumas and returned to her hometown of Salem, Mass., to recover. Any tranquility in her life is short-lived when her beloved great-aunt Eva drowns under circumstances suggesting foul play. Towner’s suspicions are taken with a grain of salt given her history of hallucinatory visions and self-harm. The mystery enmeshes local cop John Rafferty, who had left the pressures of big city police work for a quieter life in Salem and now finds himself falling for the enigmatic Towner as he mourns Eva and delves into the history of the eccentric Whitney clan. Barry excels at capturing the feel of smalltown life, and balances action with close looks at the characters’ inner worlds. Her pacing and use of different perspectives show tremendous skill and will keep readers captivated. — Publishers Weekly
You can join in a discussion of How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live like Everyone Else at the Franklin Road Library on Tuesday, October 26th at 6:30 p.m.
Gill, son of New Yorker writer Brendan Gill, explains how he was born into privilege, was “downsized” out of his high-powered advertising career, divorced by his wife after the woman with whom he was having an affair became pregnant, and learned that he had a slow-growing brain tumor–all of which ultimately led him to an entry-level job at Starbucks at the age of 64. And that’s just the first chapter. Gill’s inspirational memoir is a look back on his first year at Starbucks, learning the ropes as a barista. In each chapter, he faces a new challenge, from cleaning up to balancing the register to hosting coffee tastings . . . While telling his life story, he also hits all the appropriate business world notes, riffing on diversity, acceptance, and respect, and even manages to instill a desire for a cup of coffee in his reader. — Library Journal
On Thursday, October 28th at 6:00 p.m. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia will be discussed at the Spades Park Library.
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
And as part of the Irvington Halloween Festival, author Fred D. Cavinder will visit the Irvington Library at 2:00 on Saturday, October 30th, to tell grisly tales from his new book, Historic Indianapolis Crimes: Murder + Mystery in the Circle City, which will be available for sale and signing.
On to November
Sixty-eight-year-old Maj. Ernest Pettigrew has settled into a genteel life of quiet retirement in his beloved village of Edgecombe St. Mary. Refined, gentlemanly, unwaveringly proper in his sense of right vs. wrong, and bemused by most things modern, he has little interest in cavalier relationship mores, the Internet, and crass developments and is gently smitten by the widowed Mrs. Ali, the lovely Pakistani owner of the local shop where he buys his tea. After the unsettling death of his brother, Bertie, the Major finds his careful efforts to court Mrs. Ali (who shares his love of literature) constantly nudged off-course by his callow son, Roger; a handful of socialite ladies planning a dinner/dance at the Major’s club; and the not-so-subtle racist attitudes his interest in Mrs. Ali engender. This irresistibly delightful, thoughtful, and utterly charming and surprising novel reads like the work of a seasoned pro. In fact, it is Simonson’s debut. — Library Journal
The discussion of Antonia Felix’s biography Condi: The Condoleeza Rice Story at the Brightwood Library on Tuesday, November 2nd has been cancelled. The building is closed for the day and will reopen on Wednesday, November 3rd at 10:00 a.m.
Felix presents a well-written, highly readable portrait of national security adviser Condoleezza “Condi” Rice. It’s hard to resist the story of a black woman born in segregated Birmingham, Ala., in 1954, who broke down every barrier to excel in an arena dominated by white men. Felix credits an extraordinary upbringing-parents wholly devoted to their only child’s achievement through education and public service. Her father, John Rice, a Presbyterian minister and academic, was her primary role model, while her mother, a pianist and teacher, instilled in her a continuing love for piano playing. Felix explores the woman behind the powerful position: her diverse passions, from football to music, weight training to Russia; a fluent reader by age five and at 38 the first black, first woman and youngest person to become provost at Stanford University; the first woman national security adviser. Although Felix didn’t interview Rice, this informative biography draws on a thorough list of secondary sources and on interviews with family, friends and colleagues. — Publishers Weekly (2002)
The German occupation of the Channel Islands, recalled in letters between a London reporter and an eccentric gaggle of Guernsey islanders.This debut by an “aunt-niece” authorial team presents itself as cozy fiction about comfortably quirky people in a bucolic setting, but it quickly evinces far more serious, and ambitious, intent. In 1946, Juliet, famous for her oxymoronic wartime humor column, is coping with life amid the rubble of London when she receives a letter from a reader, Dawsey, a Guernsey resident who asks her help in finding books by Charles Lamb. After she honors his request, a flurry of letters arrive from Guernsey islanders eager to share recollections of the German occupation of the islands . . . The engrossing subject matter and lively writing make this a sure winner, perhaps fodder for a TV series. — Kirkus Reviews
National Book Award winner Philbrick now gives us a story of both heartbreaking misery and driving determination as he relates the Pilgrims’ historic journey from Europe and their hardscrabble work to establish the Plymouth Colony. They faced the threat of starvation, illness, and the savage winter (half ultimately died) and, 50 years later, bloody wars against the Indians. Philbrick’s Pilgrims are Taliban-like fanatics whose faith also is their politics. Far from the promised land of plenty, New England proved a dangerous, decimated, death-ridden coast ravaged by disease and civil war that claimed as much as 90 percent of the local population, and its soil was so overfarmed that it was as lifeless as stone. Familiar names get new faces: mercenary Miles Standish is a New World Rambo, quick to steal, kill, and behead, and native interpreter Squanto is a deceitful manipulator with his own political agenda . . . Mayflower is a jaw-dropping epic of heroes and villains, bravery and bigotry, folly and forgiveness. Philbrick delivers a masterly told story that will appeal to lay readers and history buffs alike. — Library Journal
The author blurs the line between fiction and memoir as he recounts the coming-of-age summer of 15-year-old Benji Cooper in the family’s summer retreat of New York’s Sag Harbor. “According to the world, we were the definition of paradox: black boys with beach houses,” writes Whitehead. Caucasians are only an occasional curiosity within this idyll, and parents are mostly absent as well. Each chapter is pretty much a self-contained entity, corresponding to a rite of passage: getting the first job, negotiating the mysteries of the opposite sex. There’s an accident with a BB gun and plenty of episodes of convincing someone older to buy beer, but not much really happens during this particular summer. Yet by the end of it, Benji is well on his way to becoming Ben, and he realizes that he is a different person than when the summer started. He also realizes that this time in his life will eventually live only in memory . . . Not as thematically ambitious as Whitehead’s earlier work, but a whole lot of fun to read. — Kirkus Reviews
An entertainment journalist and coauthor of memoirs by Frank Lucas and Faith Hill, King presents a satirical fiction debut thick with multiple plots and lightly fictionalized celebrities. King’s heroine is Alex Sampson Maxwell, a freelance entertainment journalist who’s covered some of the era’s biggest names, currently booked solid preparing to marry a well-known rapper named Birdie–divorced, with a young daughter–while ghostwriting the memoirs of infamous home-wrecking groupie Cleo. When she’s assigned an additional story on rappers and their relationships, things get really precarious–as difficult as her relationship is already (especially in dealing with her stepdaughterto-be) Alex’s new story teaches her the multiple ways that fame can cripple a relationship, if not kill it outright . . . an entertaining mix of sex, betrayals, high drama, and tragedy will keep the pages turning. — Publishers Weekly
College Avenue’s Sugarbook Club, in its quest for romance books that are too hot to handle, will be reading a book so hot that it’s Waking the Dead. Kylie Bryant’s novel will be discussed on Tuesday, November 9th at 6:00 p.m.
Forensic anthropologist Caitlin Fleming knows bones. So she is the first one called when seven sets of skeletal remains are found dumped in a makeshift graveyard in the Oregon wilderness. The skeletons bear the same distinctive marks–and each is missing a skull… Cait needs outdoor guide Zach Sharper for one reason only–to help her find her way through the Willamette Forest as she pieces together clues. Despite the attraction that burns between them, Cait will let nothing shake her focus. Until the killer closes in to terminate the search–and the investigators on the verge of unmasking him. — Publisher’s note
The Snow family faces a devastating crisis when oldest daughter Robin, a runner training for the Olympics, suffers a catastrophic heart attack. Molly, Robin s younger sister, gets the call from the hospital and is immediately guilt-stricken: she was supposed to accompany Robin on her run. When Molly, her older brother, Chris, and her parents, Kathryn and Charlie, gather at the hospital, they learn that Robin is in a coma and might be brain dead. While Kathryn refuses to believe the worst, Molly reaches out to David, the handsome teacher who found Robin after the heart attack, and tries to determine whether Nick, a charming reporter who once dated Robin briefly, is truly concerned about the family or just pursuing a big story. The Snows try to come to grips with the reality that Robin might never wake up, and Molly, attempting to discern what Robin would want, stumbles across Robin’s diaries and learns some startling family secrets. — Booklist
Walls, who spent years trying to hide her childhood experiences, allows the story to spill out in this remarkable recollection of growing up. From her current perspective as a contributor to MSNBC online, she remembers the poverty, hunger, jokes, and bullying she and her siblings endured, and she looks back at her parents: her flighty, self-indulgent mother, a Pollyanna unwilling to assume the responsibilities of parenting, and her father, troubled, brilliant Rex, whose ability to turn his family’s downward-spiraling circumstances into adventures allowed his children to excuse his imperfections until they grew old enough to understand what he had done to them–and to himself. His grand plans to build a home for the family never evolved: the hole for the foundation of the “The Glass Castle,” as the dream house was called, became the family garbage dump, and, of course, a metaphor for Rex Walls’ life. Shocking, sad, and occasionally bitter, this gracefully written account speaks candidly, yet with surprising affection, about parents and about the strength of family ties–for both good and ill. — Booklist
Bennie is en route from New York, where he shares a cramped apartment with his stroke-disabled mother and her caretaker, to L.A., where he will attend his daughter Stella’s wedding. He gets stranded at O’Hare when his connecting flight–along with all others–is unaccountably canceled. In the long, empty hours amid a marooned crowd, Bennie’s demand for a refund quickly becomes a scathing yet oddly joyful reflection on his difficult life, and on the Polish novel he is translating. Bennie writes lightly of his “dark years” of drinking, of his failed marriages, about his mother’s descent into suicidal madness and about her marriage to Bennie’s father, a survivor of a Nazi labor camp. Bennie’s father recited Polish poetry for solace during Bennie’s childhood, inadvertently setting Bennie’s life course; Bennie’s command of language as he describes his fellow strandees and his riotous embrace of his own feelings will have readers rooting for him. By the time flights resume, Miles has masterfully taken Bennie from grim resignation to the dazzling exhilaration of the possible. — Publishers Weekly
Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom” by Howard Frank Mosher in The Washington Post Book World, Crossing to Safety has, since its publication in 1987, established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, loves, and aspirations of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage. — Publisher’s note
James L. Swanson’s Manhunt: The Twelve-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer will be discussed at the Franklin Road Library on Tuesday, November 30th at 6:30 p.m.
Small wonder that Manhunt has been optioned as a major motion picture. In this fast-paced, hour-by-hour account of the 12 days following Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, Swanson allows the reader to ride along with the Union cavalry and federal agents through the streets of the nation’s capital and the wilds of Maryland and Virginia in pursuit of John Wilkes Booth, his coconspirators, and the host of rebel enablers who constituted a viable Confederate underground railroad. Swanson’s eye for detail and his excellent thumbnail sketches of the figures involved bring the chronicle alive. There was the simultaneous assassination attempt on Secretary of State William Seward, and Secretary of War Stanton’s pivotal role in keeping the nation together during the unrest, stoked by an irresponsible press, following Lincoln’s death. — Library Journal