Friday, September 25, 2009

October Author Events

Here are a few upcoming author events in the area next month...

October 1st at 7:30pm at the Barnes & Noble at Old Orchard: Jen Yates, founder of the website, will be signing copies of her new book Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Horribly, Hilariously Wrong. If you haven't seen this website, check it out. It's hilarious. It will also make you crave cake.

October 7th at 7:30pm at the Winnetka Congregational Church: Tracy Kidder, author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, will be discussing and signing copies of his new book, Strength in What Remains. Admission is $10 per person, which will be donated to Partners in Health.

October 13th at 7pm at the Northbrook Public Library: Mystery Authors Panel with Libby Fischer Hellman, Theresa Schwegel, and Kevin Guilfoile

October 15th at 7pm at the Borders on Michigan Avenue: Alton Brown will be signing copies of his new book Good Eats, based on his TV show on the Food Network.

The Bookstall in Winnetka is hosting a Women Writers Series, where they will be having a luncheon with an author talk. Please contact the Bookstall for more information, as I believe there is a fee:
October 26th at 12pm: Sarah Dunant
October 29th at 12pm: Jacquelyn Mitchard

Gimme Shelter

Have you ever seen one of those "As seen on TV" products and thought: "I came up with that idea years ago!" Well, I just had that experience with a book. My husband and I have been trying to buy our first home for years. It has been nothing like I imagined it would be. I always thought buying our first home would be exciting, maybe even fun. Not even close. It has been one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. Fortunately, I came across Mary Elizabeth Williams's book Gimme Shelter: Ugly Houses, Cruddy Neighborhoods, Fast-Talking Brokers, and Toxic Mortgages: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream. I could have written this book. I should have written this book. Her story of her experience trying to buy her first home is so similar to mine, I feel a kinship with her. Like me, she is a well-educated, middle class American in a dual-income marriage. Like me, she lives in an area where the cost of living is extremely high, which makes it very difficult for a middle class family to purchase their own home. But also like me, she has an intense desire for her own home. As she says: "Of course I want a home. I'm American; it's encoded into my cultural DNA." As her desire grows to set down roots for her growing family, she begins to explore their real estate options. She quickly finds out that the influx of wealthier residents to her neighborhood and the expanding housing bubble has priced her out of all but the tiniest, grimiest, housing options. While exploring different neighborhoods, she also explores the various kinds of mortgages that are available to first-time buyers, and how the sale of some of these mortgages to unqualified borrowers has caused the mess we are in right now. Although it's a frustrating process, her humor and her strong relationship with her husband seem to sustain her, and it makes for a pretty good story.

I will concede though, that Williams definitely has it worse than me. She lives in New York City, and the housing prices for a tiny apartment are astronomical. It's hard to comprehend paying that much money for a home. And, I also learned that when you live in an apartment or co-op in NYC, you will pay a monthly maintenance fee. This is not new information to me, but what I didn't know was that the fee can be $600 or more a month! Can you imagine? Just the thought of that makes my eye start twitching.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Picking Cotton

Imagine being convicted of a crime you did not commit and serving 11 years in prison. I know this happens. I've read other stories of similar injustices, and they are truly mind-boggling, but I really wanted to read Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption, because I was amazed when I heard that the victim of the crime and the man she accused, wrote this book together.

In 1983, a man broke into Jennifer Thompson's apartment and raped her. She identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald was tried, convicted, and sent to prison for life for this crime. Throughout, Ronald maintained that he was innocent, but Jennifer testified in court twice that she was absolutely, positively certain that Ronald had done it. DNA testing was finally able to prove Ronald's innocence, and he was released after serving 11 years. When I try to put myself in Ronald Cotton's shoes, I think I would be so angry. Angry at this person who accused me. Angry at the attorneys and judges who wouldn't listen. I don't know if I could forgive. But Ronald harbors no anger. Not only has Ronald Cotton forgiven Jennifer Thompson, they are friends and keep in touch with each other regularly! This is such an amazing story. Jennifer's attempt to overcome the psychological damage from her attack, and later, her guilt of condemning the wrong man; and Ronald's struggle to keep fighting and find forgiveness are truly captivating and inspiring.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just Right

How is it possible that I have never read Elinor Lipman until now? I just finished her new novel, The Family Man, and am now in love with her. It's a good story, with likable characters, and subtle humor. It's light, but not so light that it's complete fluff. It has enough depth to make for a good story, but it's not so serious that it's depressing.

Ahhh, this story is just right, she said happily and she ate it all up.