November 27, 2012 by Reader's Connection
Lamb offers up a charmingly nostalgic tale for the holidays. Felix Funicello, a distinguished professor of film studies, recalls an eventful fall. In 1964, he was a mischievous fifth-grader who spent his days getting into trouble with his best friend, Lonny, and fantasizing about his third cousin, actress Annette Funicello, whose poster graced the wall of Felix’s family’s bus-station diner. A well-meaning scamp, Felix inadvertently causes Sister Dymphyna, his teacher, to have a breakdown when he scares a bat out of hiding during class. The vibrant Madame Marguerite takes over the class and shakes things up, as does the arrival of a new student: the bawdy and daring Zhenya, whose thick accent, colorful language, and athletic prowess make her a hit with the boys. Big things loom for Felix–his mother is going to be in a televised baking contest, and he’ll be in the Christmas nativity play, then a calamity provides him with an unexpected chance to shine. Sweet and old-fashioned, Lamb’s Christmas yarn will appeal to readers wistful for more-innocent days. — Booklist
2012 saw the release of a new book about this novel, Michael Gorra’s Portrait of a Novel : Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece. Anthony Lane wrote a review of it in The New Yorker, and in doing so gave a wonderful introduction to James’s novel, concluding that James “is our foremost explorer of the private life . . . We need him more than ever.”
The “first immortal human cells,” code-named HeLa, have flourished by the trillions in labs all around the world for more than five decades, making possible the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, and many more crucial discoveries. But where did the HeLa cells come from? Science journalist Skloot spent 10 years arduously researching the complex, tragic, and profoundly revealing story of Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African American mother of five who came to Johns Hopkins with cervical cancer in 1951, and from whom tumor samples were taken without her knowledge or that of her family. Henrietta died a cruel death and was all but forgotten, while her miraculous cells live on, “growing with mythological intensity.” Skloot travels to tiny Clover, Virginia; learns that Henrietta’s family tree embraces black and white branches; becomes close to Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah; and discovers that although the HeLa cells have improved countless lives, they have also engendered a legacy of pain, a litany of injustices, and a constellation of mysteries. Writing with a novelist’s artistry, a biologist’s expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force. — Booklist
Fifth-grade scholarship students and best friends Henry and Keiko are the only Asians in their Seattle elementary school in 1942. Henry is Chinese, Keiko is Japanese, and Pearl Harbor has made all Asians–even those who are American born–targets for abuse. Because Henry’s nationalistic father has a deep-seated hatred for Japan, Henry keeps his friendship with and eventual love for Keiko a secret. When Keiko’s family is sent to an internment camp in Idaho, Henry vows to wait for her. Forty years later, Henry comes upon an old hotel where the belongings of dozens of displaced Japanese families have turned up in the basement, and his love for Keiko is reborn. In his first novel, award-winning short-story writer Ford expertly nails the sweet innocence of first love, the cruelty of racism, the blindness of patriotism, the astonishing unknowns between parents and their children, and the sadness and satisfaction at the end of a life well lived. The result is a vivid picture of a confusing and critical time in American history. — Library Journal
I predict that the Shared Reading Group at Spades Park will begin to read and discuss Herman Melville’s Moby Dick at the beginning of December. We will go in search of the white whale every Friday morning from 10:00 until 11:30. That’s assuming that we finish reading William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying this Friday, November 30th.
Travis DiNicola, Executive Director of Indy Reads, mentioned in a comment last summer that he was reading Moby Dick. I asked him now if he had anything to say about it, and my thanks go to Travis for kindly sending this:
I have a vague memory of reading passages from Moby Dick in a high-school English class, finding the language dense and confusing, and choosing not to read any more than I had to at the time. I clearly wasn’t ready for the whale yet. Last year while reading, and enjoying, Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, which is submerged in Moby Dick references, I started to wonder if it was finally time for me to tackle the novel. Last summer, after going on a whale watching cruise off of the coast of Maine, and seeing an 80 foot Fin Back surface, the first thing I did when we returned to the dock was walk directly to the bookstore which was a block away and buy Moby Dick (with a great introduction by Nathaniel Philbrick, who has also written the great little book, Why Read Moby Dick?). I’m a fast reader, but even so it took me almost two months to finish it. The experience of reading it for me was so engaging that at times I find myself missing it, and am almost disappointed that I did finally finish it. What surprised me the most while reading it was how much humor, some bawdy, some clever sarcasm, are found in the first 100 pages or so. A later chapter on the sustainability of the whale population is particularly interesting to read now with the hindsight of 150 years. This book is not dated though—there isn’t much of an overall plot, and in many extended sections of the book there is none at all—but there are stories, and characters, and history. And there is the whale. As my friend of more than 25 years, author James Morrow, has said, the book works best when the reader isn’t wrestling with the whale in trying to decipher what sort of symbol it is and just accepts it as what it is, a whale.
This book is the first in a new series: Forgotten Castles.
Check out the reviews at Christianbook.com.
When Derrick breaks up with Zacariah, his cheating girlfriend, he rushes to his best friend’s house for support. Jaquon is not there, but his girlfriend is. Kea knows all about infidelity and before they know it, their mutual pity party turns into intense passion. Soon, the two can’t help but start a smoking hot affair. Zacariah uncovers their secret and crashes a party at Derrick’s house – but she’s armed with more than just the news of the affair. She’s going to reveal more than any one is prepared to handle. This is the sizzling first novel in a three-book series. — Urban Books
In 1985, Ford published The Sportswriter and with protagonist Frank Bascombe began an epic story of the everyman. Ten years later, Bascombe returned in
Independence Day , winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award, a feat never before accomplished by a single work of fiction. Here, Ford revisits the story in 2000, as Bascombe deals with prostate cancer, his second divorce, and the controversial presidential election fiasco. He has moved to the Jersey shore, where he sells real estate and, over the course of 500 pages, does nothing particularly important except host a postnuclear family Thanksgiving get-together to which, against his better judgment, he has invited his ex-wife and emotionally explosive son. But, as in many literary classics, the beauty of this novel is in its presentation . . . in Bascombe’s unwaveringly honest and humorous narration. Ford manages to become his character and remove authorial boundaries, transforming his novel into a story told to us by an old friend. A fitting way to complete the Frank Bascombe legacy. — Library Journal
Check out Lyndsay Wallace’s review on Goodreads.
And Liz Hammet’s review.
Dominic and Clarice Corde, minor characters who fell in love in Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novel Brunswick Gardens (1998), are called to the small village of Cottisham in Oxfordshire, where Dominic is to replace Reverend Wynter, who unexpectedly went on holiday right before Christmas. While fetching coal from the cellar, Clarice discovers the vicar’s body in the second cellar. Some holiday. Although the local doctor says Wynter died of natural causes, Clarice and Dominic don’t agree and begin their own investigation as snow blankets the village. What secrets did Wynter know that may have caused his death? Along with rummaging about in the villagers’ closets in search of a motive, the sleuths also deal with Dominic’s lack of confidence in his abilities to minister to his flock this Christmas season. Engaging characters, a vivid sense of time and place, and a cozy setting add enjoyment to this Victorian mystery. — Booklist
I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.
Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.