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Showing posts from April, 2010

Tea with Trigiani

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There's this fantastic contest for bloggers attending Book Expo America, (which is less than a month away now!), to win a contest to have tea with Adriana Trigiani during BEA. Of course, I want to win. I read my first Trigiani book over Christmas (Big Stone Gap), and I loved it. It was different than I expected, and it was funnier. I've really been looking forward to reading the rest of the Stone Gap books, but I'm even more intrigued with her new trilogy.
Adriana Trigiani has a new trilogy, and its first book, Very Valentine, is now in paperback. The second book, Brava, Valentine, was released in February. Despite receiving the books for review and the deadline being extended until today, I still haven't read them. (Book blogger shame). With one week left in my hardest semester of graduate school, it just hasn't happened. I will read them before BEA, but in the meantime, I have some fun Adriana Trigiani tidbits for you all.
The books take place in Greenwich Villa…

book review: Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet

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The backstory: I haven't read anything by Lydia Millet before, but Love in Infant Monkeys was one of the finalists for this year's Pulitzer Prize. It is not available on the Kindle, so I requested it from the library. Because it's only a seven-day check out, I read it first. I am not a person who loves short stories, although Elizabeth Crane convinces me I sometimes do. I vaguely knew of Lydia Millet, as I remember wanting to read her novel George Bush, Dark Prince of Lovewhen it came out.
The basics & the verdict: Short story collections can be difficult to assess. There are always some stories more enjoyable than others. This collection works beautifully as a collection. All the stories deal with animals and celebrities, and each one is beautifully unique. Millet has taken tidbits and stories from the headlines and re-imagined them. The first story in the collection, "Sexing the Pheasant," is the story of Madonna hunting in England. It is absolutely brillian…

audio book review: The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

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The backstory: Then We Came to the End, the first novel by Joshua Ferris, has been in my TBR pile since it came out. I immediately knew I wanted to read The Unnamed too, and I was thrilled when I won a contest for a copy of the audio book, I was thrilled. I saved it for my road trip to Providence, Rhode Island, and it was a wonderful road companion.
The basics: Tim Farnsworth, a lawyer, cannot stop walking.  No doctor can figure out what's causing this unnamed condition.
The verdict: Ferris uses a seemingly ridiculous medical condition (inability to stop walking?) to explore a marriage, a family, and our collective cynicism. To satisfy the naysayers and the characters themselves, Ferris explores every question I could muster about this bizarre condition. As a reader/listener, I was privy to the thoughts of Tim, his wife Jane, and their daughter, and the different reasons they each had for not discussing Tim's condition with others. In this world where drug and alcohol problems a…

Orange Prize: 2010 shortlist

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he Orange Prize, given to a work of fiction written by a woman in English, has announced its 2010 shortlist. It's a British prize, and a novel's eligibility is determined by its British publication date.
The official announcement, including two excellent videos of the judges discussing the shortlist are available on its Web site.

The shortlist:

The Very Thought of You by Rosie AlisonThe Lacuna by Barbara KingsolverBlack Water Rising by Attica LockeWolf Hall by Hilary MantelA Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie MooreThe White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique RoffeyMy reactions to the shortlist: It's no surprise to see Wolf Hall on the list, but I am shocked Sarah Waters' Little Stranger did not make the shortlist. I am also surprised The Long Song by Andrea Levy did not make the list, but I'm still waiting on its U.S. release to read it. Three U.S. authors are among the six finalists: Barbara Kingsolver, Attica Locke and Lorrie Moore. The Lacuna received mixed reviews, …

dinner and a movie: The Runaways

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Welcome to my Monday morning recap of my fabulous Friday night date with myself. This week I'm back to my usual location: the Spectrum 8 Theatres and New World Bistro Bar.
The back story: As someone who grew up on the c'singles (cassette singles) of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, I was immediately interestedin learning about her early years in rock and roll with the all-girl rock band, The Runaways. Feminism and music? Yes, please. Also, after being pleasantly surprised with how good Kristen Stewart was in Twilight (my review), playing a character I disliked in the novel, I was eager to see her act again.
The basics: Although it was billed largely as a Joan Jett biopic, it's more of a Cherie Curry biopic. Cherie was the lead singer of The Runaways, and the script was based on her memoirNeon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway. The film focuses on Jett and Curry, and the band's other three members are barely included. 
The verdict: Floria Sigismondi managed to make a film about J…

book review: The Lovers by Vendela Vida

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The back story: I am a huge fan of Vendela Vida, and when I first heard about her new novel, the advance praise alone had me longing for it. Thankfully, I got a copy from the publisher via Book Browse.
The basics: Yvonne is a middle-aged widow with two grown children who decides to travel alone to Datca, Turkey. 
The verdict: I savored every word of the novel's 240 pages. Vida does a masterful job of showing the reader how even an intelligent, self-aware and honest character, does not really see what is going on around her. Yvonne's slow admissions of her back story made me realize the better I knew her, the less well she understood herself. I loved  Yvonne, and I loved the descriptions of marriage, parenting, teaching and travel. Overall: it's my favorite read of 2010 so far.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars) Pages: 240 Publication date: June 22, 2010 (pre-order it from Amazon.com) Source: I received this book from the publisher
As an Amazon affiliate, I will receive a small com…

book review: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

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The back story: I was eager to read this book as soon as I heard about it. It's published by Amy Einhorn (Penguin), whose publishing philosopshy for this imprint is "intelligent writing with a strong narrative, always with great storytelling at its core." I'm also a huge fan of historical fiction about real people. Years ago when I thought I wanted to be a historian, I was often frustrated that history didn't hold all the answers, and I adore novelists who take the gaps in our collective knowledge and create stories to help fill them in in some way. When Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha' Reading? proposed a reading series of this novel, I jumped at the opportunity.
The basics: The title is quite descriptive. This book tells the story of one summer (and fall) in Louisa May Alcott's life. The Alcotts, poor because Bronson's philosophy is at odds with earning an income to support his family, move to a friend's home in Walpole, New Hampshire in 1855.
My favor…

book club: Olive Kitteridge

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The book club back story: After living in Albany for two years, I decided I had enough literary-minded friends and acquaintances to start a book club. We had our first meeting last night, and it was wonderful. Here is the delightful spread of wine and snacks.
The book choice: I chose Olive Kitteridge for our first book because I had been meaning to read it for a long time. Plus, it's relatively short, and I didn't want to scare people away.

The basics: Olive Kitteridge is a set of somewhat interconnected stories (some are more connected than others). Olive Kitteridge is an old, large curmudgeon of a woman who lives on the coast of Maine. She taught math before she retired.Some stories are about Olive, some she plays a supporting role in, and some her name is only mentioned in passing.

The verdict: The six of us were relatively split on the book, and it made for wonderful discussion. I admire Elizabeth Strout, but I didn't love Olive Kitteridge. I'm glad she won the Pulit…

Pulitzer Prize 2010

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Part of my desire to read deliberately this year, which hasn't been a total success by the way, is to read more award winners. I eagerly awaited the 3 p.m. announcement of the Pulitzer Prize winner and finalists for Fiction. I adore the Pulitzer Prize. It announces winners and finalist all at once, and the award comes in the spring. It's the first announcement of the year for adult books (yes, the Orange longlist is announced earlier, but the shortlist comes later this month and the winner won't be announced until June), so it has the extra air of excitement.
The winner: Tinkers by Paul Harding
Harding's first novel just won the Pulitzer Prize. I already downloaded it onto my Kindle and cannot wait to start reading it. The novel was published January 1, 2009.  The Finalists: In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin Mueenuddin is not too much of a surprise, as he was also a finalist for the National Book Award and Entertainment Weekly named it its Best Fiction bo…

sunday salon: Empire State Book Festival

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Yesterday, while most of you were busy reading for twenty-four hours, I was at the first ever Empire State Book Festival right here in Albany. If you followed the conversation (#esbf) on Twitter at all, you hear many first-time visitors exclaim about Albany's unique downtown architecture. Yes, here in the fourth-oldest city in the country, a modernist mall, including an Egg-shaped theater, was built.
The festival itself was wonderful. Mr. nomadreader and I decided to have a leisurely morning, so we missed Gregory Maguire's keynote. Maguire grew up here and went to college here, so he's quite the local hero. The first panel we went to was the graphic novel/comic book panel. While some interesting points were made, the session completely lacked organization and the panelists seemed to have no idea of who their audience was. This festival was organized by the New York Library Association and drew librarians, booksellers, voracious readers and authors. There were six panels go…