Friday, September 28, 2007

Author Visit!

The Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich will be hosting Erik Larson on Saturday, October 13th at 2pm. Larson is famous for his recent non-fiction work, Devil in the White City. At this event he will be talking about and signing his new book, Thunderstruck. Registration is required.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Food and Fiction

Can you believe I have never read a Diane Mott Davidson novel until now? She has been a popular mystery author for over 10 years, but I just got around to reading her first novel, Catering To Nobody. This is the first book in her series, featuring Goldy Bear, a caterer in a small Colorado town. While catering a funeral, her ex-father-in-law is poisoned and Goldy is a suspect. Intent on clearing her name, Goldy does some sleuthing on her own and uncovers some terrible secrets about her seemingly good natured ex-father-in-law.

This is what I would call a "cozy" mystery. The setting is a charming little town where everyone knows everyone else. The violence is minimal and there is no sex (at least not in this book-Goldy does marry in a future novel, so I assume there may be some eventually). I often find that some cozies are a little too cozy for me, and the amateur detective bit can sometimes seem a little far-fetched, but that's not the case here. The writing is very good. The descriptions of the town and the food are wonderful. There is a little pastry shop that Goldy frequents, and I can just see the cafe tables and smell the cinnamon roles. Goldy is a great character, who has picked herself up from an abusive relationship and is supporting herself and her son. But her life isn't perfect, and she deals with common issues, such as being able to pay the mortgage and dealing with a moody son who is entering puberty. The mystery kept me turning the pages until the end and Goldy's recipes are included, which I loved.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On Chesil Beach

Ever since I read Ian McEwan's Atonement, which I loved, I have made it my mission to read the rest of his novels. Unfortunately I started with his latest, On Chesil Beach. The story didn't really appeal to me from the beginning, but the audio version just came in, and I thought it would be a good way to pass a long car ride. I have to say it was a let down after Atonement. It is a short novel-about 200 pages. It is the story of a young couple in the 1960's, on their wedding night. Both are still virgins and are worried about the impending consummation. Edward is worried that he will "arrive too soon" and Florence is simply disgusted by the idea of having sex and is completely dreading it. So, the event is a disaster and the marriage is ruined. First-why is Florence so disgusted by the idea of having sex? There was something in the background story that led me to believe she may have been molested by her father when she was a girl, but it wasn't very clear so I'm not sure. I would have liked more development there. Second, the marriage falls apart based on this one event? Not really believable to me. And after the two part ways, we hear what Florence is doing in her career, but we don't get any insight into her thoughts or feelings after time has passed. Bottom line: the story didn't do anything for me, and I just didn't care about either of the characters.

Friday, September 21, 2007

And you thought your office was messy

The Guardian has a special report featuring writers' rooms. It's interesting to see the varied conditions that they work in, and I love some of the descriptions of the rooms. I love Margaret Drabble's room. If that were my office, I would probably spend more time looking out the window rather than writing. But she says she never looks out the window when she's writing. And note the handcuffs in Ian Rankin's room.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Match Me If You Can

Yesterday I had the wonderful experience of hearing Susan Elizabeth Phillips speak at a lunch for a group of librarians. She is a lot of fun-very funny and very sassy! In the past I have always steered away from the romance fiction genre. I guess because I've always thought of them as trashy novels with scantily clad women and shirtless Fabio-like men on the cover, featuring swooning women and an abundance of cheesy words like quivering and throbbing. But when a coworker recommended Phillips as a great romance writer, I hesitantly checked out Match Me If You Can. And I absolutely loved it.

Anabelle Granger inherits her grandmother's fledgling matchmaking business, and decides to turn it around by landing a huge client. She sets her sights on Heath Champion, a popular Chicago sports agent. Anabelle's determination wins her a chance to find the perfect match for Heath. Their stubborn personalities initially cause them to butt heads, but lead to a chemistry that neither can deny for long. Such a great story! Anabelle is a very real, very determined heroine. And you can't help but liking Heath, despite his arrogance. Obviously you know how the ending will play out, but it's a enjoyable ride nonetheless. It's fun, humorous and sexy. Without the quivering and throbbing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Arthur Miller

There is a very interesting article in Vanity Fair's September issue about Arthur Miller's son. Reminds me of The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Bestiary by Nicholas Christopher

Xeno Atlas's mother dies during childbirth, leaving him with his increasingly distant and absent father. Left under the care of his grandmother, Xeno becomes fascinated with her magical stories of animal spirits. After her death, his father ships him off to boarding school. Here Xeno is introduced to medieval bestiaries, books which include both real and mythical animals. He becomes obsessed with the idea of an ancient missing bestiary, the Caravan Bestiary. The Caravan Bestiary is said to be one of the first bestiaries and includes all of the animals that were left off of Noah's ark. It becomes Xeno's dream to find this bestiary, if it still exists. As Xeno grows into a young man, his goal is put aside while he fights in the Vietnam war, but the bestiary is never far from his mind. When he resumes his search, he travels across Europe, digging through ancient manuscripts and archives, and at the same time, uncovering family secrets.

I initially picked up this book, because I like mysteries where there is a search for missing artifacts, artwork, etc. But this book is so much more than that. Christopher presents a rich story with beautiful prose and complex characters. The story is not just about the search for the bestiary, but also Xeno's search for answers and acceptance of his family and himself. This was a very satisfying read, and I'm looking forward to reading more by this author.

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

I finally got around to reading my advanced copy of Gail Tsukiyama's The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, which was just released earlier this month. This lovely book takes place in Japan and follows two brothers, Hiroshi and Kenji Matsumoto, from boyhood into adulthood, spanning the years 1939-1966. Orphaned when they are young, the boys are raised by their grandparents. As teenagers, Hiroshi shows promise at sumo wrestling, while Kenji takes an interest in creating masks for the Noh theater. However, both are put on hold after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The hardships and devestation caused by the war make survival their only priority. Once the war is over, Hiroshi and Kenji resume efforts of achieving their dreams. Both find success in their careers, but suffer loss in love. This is a touching story of family, love, loss and resilience. Tsukiyama creates wonderful characters, not just in Hiroshi and Kenji, but in their grandparents, their senseis, and the women they love. The vivid descriptions of Japanese life, especially the sumo wrestling and the Noh theater, are exceptional and Tsukiyama deftly portrays the lasting effects of war on people's lives.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Steve Berry's Venetian Betrayal

Great news! Steve Berry's latest novel, The Venetian Betrayal, will be released in December. Publisher's Weekly reports that Berry has been signed to write three more novels, which will be published through 2011. Shortly after I became a librarian, I stumbled on his first book, The Amber Room, and was hooked. His books are fast paced, suspenseful, and have great story lines. I haven't been able to find a synopsis of The Venetian Betrayal, but my clever powers of deduction lead me to believe that it may take place in Venice, which is one of my favorite settings! His last two novels have featured the character Cotton Malone, and I believe this next one may be part of that series. I'm not so sure about this Cotton Malone yet. First, his name drives me nuts. Cotton? Really? Second, I just can't get a picture of him in my mind. Usually I have an idea in my head of what a character looks like, but Malone eludes me. Nonetheless, I still love his books and I'm sure his new book will be another great read!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Left Behind

The hotel chain Travelodge in Britain compiled a survey of the most discarded books left behind in their hotel rooms. Over 6,500 books are left behind throughout the year, and these are the top 10:

1. The Blair Years by Alastair Campbell

2. Don't You Know Who I Am? by Piers Morgan

3. Jordan: A Whole New World by Katie Price

4. Wicked by Jilly Cooper

5. Dr Who Creatures & Demons by Justin Richard

6. The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown

7. I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna

8. Humble Pie by Gordon Ramsay

9. The Story Of A Man And His Mouth by Chris Moyles

10. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

I don't know about you, but I've never left a book behind anywhere. At least not on purpose. But most of these titles seem like ones that I would leave behind. Except for Harry Potter, of course.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Author Visits!!

Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville has several exciting author events coming up this month. Diana Gabaldon is speaking tonight, September 5th. Diane Mott Davidson will visit on Wednesday, September 12th, and Gail Tsukiyama will visit on Thursay, September 13th. Haven Kimmel, author of the popular book, A Girl Named Zippy, will visit on Monday, September 24th to promote her new book.

The Bookstall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka will be hosting Laura Moriarty on Monday, September 17th. The author of the book The Center of Everything will be promoting her latest novel, The Rest of Her Life. On Thursday, September 20th, the store will host Tim Weiner, author of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago. They will also host author Amy Bloom at the store on this date. She will be promoting her new book, Away.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll get to any of these, so let me hear from you if you are able to attend!

Reading Habits

A recent AP-Ipsos poll on reading habits revealed some interesting, although not really surprising, results:

* 25% of adults surveyed had not read any books at all that year.

* Of those who had read, 7 was the average number of books read. Women averaged 9 books, while men averaged 5.

* Women and retirees were the most avid readers.

* Religious works and popular fiction were the most popular.

* One in five readers read romance.

* Men read more biographies and history books than women.

*Conservatives accounted for 34% of the non-readers, while liberals and moderates accounted for 22%. (Why this is important, or even interesting, I'm not sure).

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Missed out on a summer vacation this year?

I love to travel to foreign countries, but let's face it, the likelihood that I will visit the Congo is slim. Which is why I love travelogues like Redmond O'Hanlon's No Mercy: A Journey into the Heart of the Congo. I can visit these places from the air conditioned, bug-free comfort of my own home. CondeNast Traveler has published the 86 greatest travel books of all time, which includes a variety of authors, including Mark Twain, Bill Bryson, and Paul Theroux, as well as O'Hanlon. The list was compiled by a jury that included Monica Ali, Vikram Chandra, Geraldine Brooks, Peter Mayle, Erik Larson, Francine Prose, and Paul Theroux.