November 22, 2011 by Reader's Connection
An ISO violinist is going to visit Franklin Road in December. Elsewhere, two Pulitzer Prize winners and four holiday-related titles will be discussed. And a character in one novel wins the lottery. And a catless Jim Qwilleran debuts in another.
. . . former newsman Jim Qwilleran, whose two prescient Siamese are the heart and soul of the stories, starts out with no cats and, in fact, is reluctant at first to become a sitter for the talented Koko. The series’ other feline star, Yum Yum, is not yet on the scene. Qwill takes a job as a feature writer at a newspaper whose controversial art reviewer, George Mountclemens, owns Koko. Renting the downstairs apartment in Mountclemens’s building, Qwill is soon coerced into performing small favors, including cat-sitting. The killing of a gallery owner rocks the town. When the critic is murdered, Qwill becomes more personally involved. By the time the story winds down, Koko has managed to help save Qwill’s life and point out the murderer. Braun’s witty investigation of the 1960s art scene is as entertaining as her depiction of crusty Qwill’s growing admiration for Koko’s extraordinary talents. — Publishers Weekly
On Monday, December 5th at 6:30 p.m., at the Franklin Road Library, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra violinist Terry Langdon will lead a discussion of Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century.
Ross, the classical music critic for the New Yorker , leads a whirlwind tour from the Viennese premiere of Richard Strauss’s Salome in 1906 to minimalist Steve Reich’s downtown Manhattan apartment. The wide-ranging historical material is organized in thematic essays grounded in personalities and places, in a disarmingly comprehensive style . . . Thus, composers who led dramatic lives–such as Shostakovich’s struggles under the Soviet regime–make for gripping reading, but Ross treats each composer with equal gravitas. The real strength of this study, however, lies in his detailed musical analysis, teasing out–in precise but readily accessible language–the notes that link Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story to Arnold Schoenberg’s avant-garde compositions or hint at a connection between Sibelius and John Coltrane. Among the many notable passages, a close reading of Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes stands out for its masterful blend of artistic and biographical insight. Readers new to classical music will quickly seek out the recordings Ross recommends, especially the works by less prominent composers, and even avid fans will find themselves hearing familiar favorites with new ears. — Publishers Weekly
Book club members may use the promo code “book” when ordering tickets for the ISO’s May 18th or 19th performances of Shoshtakovich’s Tenth Symphony, to receive a $5 discount for a main floor ticket. Click here–on this sentence, not on the illustration below–to order online.
This important new novel . . . is, first of all, a farm novel. Smiley lovingly creates an idyllic world of family farm life in Iowa in 1979: the neat yard, freshly painted house, clean clothes on the line, and fertile, well-tended fields. The owner of these well-managed acres is Larry Cook, who abruptly decides to turn the farm over to his two eldest daughters and their husbands. Ginny and Ty are hard-working farmers who try to placate her ornery father, while sister Rose and hard-drinking Pete try to stand up to him. Dark secrets surface after the property transfer, and the family’s careful world unravels with a grim inevitability reminiscent of Smiley’s splendid novella “Good Will” . Not to be missed. — Library Journal
Narrator Calliope “Cal” Stephanides is a Greek-American hermaphrodite who eventually becomes a 41-year-old male living in Germany and working for the US State Department. But prior to that-thanks to Cal’s assumed ability to “enter the heads” of his relatives and forebears-we’re treated to a comic saga that begins in 1922 in the Middle Eastern port city of Smyrna, where Cal’s paternal grandparents, Desdemona and Eleutherios (“Lefty”), fall into incestuous love, escape the Turkish siege of their homeland by finagling passage to America . . . then, concocting new identities, marry while aboard ship. Eugenides produces one brilliant set piece after another as Desdemona grapples with lifelong guilt; Lefty works briefly at a Henry Ford factory, then prospers as a restaurateur; their son Milton, following ominously in Lefty’s footsteps, marries his second cousin Tessie, becomes a hot-dog mogul, and fathers the medical miracle that is Calliope . . . Middlesex vibrates with wit, and shapes its outrageous premise . . . into a beguiling panorama of the century in which America itself struggled to come to terms with its motley heritage and patchwork character.A virtuosic combination of elegy, sociohistorical study, and picaresque adventure: altogether irresistible. — Kirkus Reviews
Returning to her beloved Blossom Street, Macomber treats readers to a funny, touching tale that takes a bachelor child psychologist with free-thinking child-rearing ideas and an outspoken heroine with twin nieces who thinks his ideas are just plain nuts, sends them on a blind date they can’t refuse, and lets the romance “and the inevitable fireworks” begin. A newly “psychic” neighbor adds a whimsical touch to this charmer that overflows with holiday warmth and puts a new twist on the classic Christmas letter. — Library Journal
By December 1918, the western front of World War I featured two parallel trenches stretching from the North Sea to the Alps. The armies, both suffering from exposure and disease as well as enemy fire, were so close that they could sometimes hear each other talking. On Christmas Day, an informal peace broke out in many locations along the front. Soldiers gathered between the trenches to mingle, exchange small gifts, and bury their dead. It was apparently the first truce to come from the troops, rather than their leaders. Murphy’s excellent telling of this unusual war story begins with an account of the events that led to WWI and follows the shift in the soldiers’ mind-sets from the feverish rush to join before the war ended to the painful realization that no end was in sight . . . After discussing the book’s origins, the epilogue comments on the effects of government misinformation, past and present. – Booklist
Jan Karon’s heartwarming holiday tale, Shepherds Abiding presents Father Timothy with the challenge of restoring a dilapidated nativity scene. Though he considers Cynthia the artist in the family, Father Tim sees something special in the neglected crèche and is determined to restore it to its former glory. And he’s not the only one hoping for a Christmas miracle; other Mitford residents have problems of their own. Hope Winchester, the manager of the town bookstore, Happy Endings, is thinking of taking a step to make the tiny shop her own, and looking for love with Scott Murphy. The strain of a long-distance marriage is taking its toll on Lew Boyd, the owner of the Exxon station, and young Dooley is having a difficult time resolving issues with his father. Karon handles the myriad plot lines with ease, using multiple points-of-view to tell the story. Mitford fans who sample this special Christmas treat are sure to find refuge and inspiration in its charming portrait of small-town life. — BookPage
A young expectant mother trying to warn the father of her child that her three brothers will soon be on his trail comes to Cedar Cove on Christmas Eve only to find the cad gone, the town inn full, and her only refuge, thanks to the kindness of the town librarian, an apartment above a stable filled with animals for the upcoming Christmas pageant. A fainting spell introduces Mary Jo Wyse to firefighter/paramedic Mack McAfee. When she goes into early labor, he rescues her once more–by delivering her baby. Familiar townspeople, three impulsive brothers on the hunt, and a pair of appealing protagonists bring to life this sweet, humorous romance that, with its many obvious parallels, is a satisfying, almost tongue-in-cheek retelling of the Christmas story. The Cedar Cove books are set in a town much like Macomber’s own Port Orchard, WA. — Library Journal
Briscoe returns with the rags-to-riches-to-rags tale of Lenora Stone, a magazine photographer who is barely scraping by financially. Her condo is tiny, bills are unpaid, and her man, Gerald, doesn’t want to commit. Compounding these problems are her demanding boss, Dawna, and a smoldering lust for Ray, the hot young landscaper she is assigned to photograph for a feature story. When Lenora wins $5 million in the Maryland lottery, the world is at her fingertips. She can afford to buy a luxury car, a mansion, and open her own studio. Predictably, the money goes fast, and Lenora is caught in a tryst with landscaper Ray . . . Fans of Briscoe, frothy chick lit, and African American pop fiction will enjoy this. — Library Journal
College Avenue Library‘s Sugarbook Club will be holding their discussion on Tuesday, December 13th at 6:00 p.m.
This stunning debut novel is a triumph of voice and setting. Following one impoverished family from the Depression up through the present, the story is told in six voices and set in a remote region called Bloodroot Mountain, so named for the rare flower that grows there, which can both poison and heal. The family’s struggles with poverty and human cruelty and their endless search for connection are set against the majestic Appalachian landscape, which is evoked in the simplest and most beautiful language. At the center of this dramatic story is Myra Lamb, raised by her loving grandmother and born with sky-blue eyes and a talent for connecting with animals and people. Allowed to run free on the family’s mountaintop, Myra is a charismatic figure who eventually draws the romantic interest of John Odom, the wealthy son of business owners in town. Their marriage, which starts out with so much promise, gradually turns abusive as Myra is imprisoned in her new home and prevented from seeing her grandmother . . . With a style as elegant as southern novelist Lee Smith’s and a story as affecting as The Color Purple, this debut offers stirring testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. — Booklist