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Showing posts from September, 2010

New York State Writers Institute: Fall 2010

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One of the coolest literary perks of living in Albany is the New York State Writers Institute and their Visiting Writers series. The Fall 2010 schedule has been released, but I'm only highlighting the ones I'm most excited about (the full list is here.)


Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez
Thursday, October 7
The early buzz about Salvation City has been amazing. It's the story of "an oprhaned 13-year-old boy who is adopted into a Christian fundamentalist community, and who struggles to make sense of life in the aftermath of the flu pandemic that wipes out much of the world's population." I'm also hoping she talks about her forthcoming memoir, Sempre Susan, about her long friendship with Susan Sontag. It will be published in 2011.

The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother's Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times by Ilyon Woo
Thursday, October 21
I've lived in Albany for a little over two years, and I'm growing more and m…

book review: I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

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The backstory: I really enjoy mysteries, and when I read my first Laura Lippman novel last year, Life Sentences (my review), I didn't really love it because I didn't think it was much of a mystery. I did think she was a good writer, though, and when I heard about her latest stand-alone mystery, I'd Know You Anywhere, I wanted to give her another try.

The basics: When Eliza was fifteen, she was kidnapped and held captive for weeks by a man who raped and killed young women. He let her go. He's now on death row, and she receives a letter from him that shatters her present world. She changed her name from Elizabeth to Eliza, took her husband's name and never speaks of the event.

My thoughts: Once again, I read a Lippman novel I wouldn't describe as a mystery. The central mystery, if you can call it that, is the lingering effect of kidnapping. The novel is told in alternating chapters of the summer of 1985, Elizabeth's summer with Walter, and the present day. I f…

Waiting on Wednesday: Silent Mercy by Linda Fairstein

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If you read this blog, you know I'm a huge fan of Linda Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper mystery series, and I just heard about her latest release, Silent Mercy. Here's the description of what we're in store for in this thirteenth Alexandra Cooper novel:
"It's the middle of the night. Prosecutor Alexandra Cooper is called to Harlem's Mount Neboh Baptist Church, a beautiful house of worship originally built as a synagogue. But the crowd gathered there isn't interested in architecture, or even prayer. They've come for the same reason Alex has: to find out why the body of a young woman has been decapitated, set on fire, and left burning on the church steps.

The only identifiable artifact on the charred remains is the imprint of a Star of David necklace seared into the victim's flesh. Alex wonders if the fire was meant to destroy this woman's body, or to draw attention to it. Her fears are confirmed days later, when a second corpse is fou…

book review: Loving Che by Ana Menendez

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The backstory: I so enjoyed reading Ana Menendez's most recent novel, The Last War (my review), I was eager to read her first novel, Loving Che. Menendez also wrote a collection of short stories entitled In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd.

The basics: Loving Che takes place in contemporary Miami, as a young woman longs to uncover her past. Once she receives a package of letters and photographs, the narrative shifts to her mother's voice recalling the years of the Cuban Revolution and her love affair with Che Guevera. Then, the narrative shifts back to modern day as the unnamed narrator seeks to use the clues from letters and photographs to fill in the details of her life.

My thoughts: I'm a huge fan of historical fiction featuring real people, and Che Guevera is someone I've been fascinated with quietly  for years. Loving Che is a unique piece of historical fiction. It's events are intricately linked to actual events in the very public life of Che Guevera and the Cuban …

book review: The Art of Devotion

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The basics: The Art of Devotion, Samantha Bruce-Benjamin's first novel, is told through the voices of four women: two mothers and two daughters. The lives of these families criss-cross in a variety of ways on a beautiful Mediterranean island.

My thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. I adore novels told from multiple points of view. I like stories of family secrets and interconnected generations. I like historical fiction (it's set in the first half of the 1900's.) I like books set in exotic locations. What kept me from loving this book? It was oh so very melodramatic. Bruce-Benjamin was so busy having the four narrators tell us what they were thinking and feeling the characters never actually thought or felt anything. The pacing was bizarre and unsuccessful for me. All of the narration read like a memoir; each woman's emotions were presented, but for most of the book, the reader didn't actually know what events they vaguely referred to. There was an omen of s…

BBAW Interview Swap

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Today's celebration of Book Blogger Appreciation Week is the interview swap. I was partnered with Kristi from Kristi's Book Nook. You can find Kristi's interview of me today on her blog.

Why did you start blogging about books?
I love childrens books. I write childrens books and submitt work all the time. I read with my nephew and he would always come home from school with a new book to share. From that I just started writing reviews about them.

What is your favorite things about blogging? 
I love blogging about reading. Anything that will get a parent or child interested in reading I am all for it. I blog because I love self expression. Since all of my blogs are different I can express myself in many ways. It's fun.

Your blog highlights children's books. Do you read other types of books too?
I love to read detective and sci-fi type books. I love scary books too. I am a big fan of Stephen King, John Sanford, James Patterson and F. Paul Wilson.


You're also a writer.…

Booker 2010: C by Tom McCarthy

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The backstory:C is on this year's Booker Prize shortlist.
The basics:I'm not sure I've ever read a book so difficult to summarize. The book jacket does a decent job, however, so I'll use its description: "C follows the short, intense life of Serge Carrefax, a man who--as his name suggests--surges into the electric modernity of the early twentieth century, transfixed by the technologies that will obliterate him."

My thoughts:C is a complicated, dense, self-referential novel. The overarching theme of the novel (I think) is transmission: the transmission of thoughts, feelings, ideas, words, messages and life itself. It's a difficult novel to evaluate. As I was reading it, I felt simultaneously smart for getting some of McCarthy's puns, symbols and allusions, but I couldn't help feeling I was barely scratching the surface of this novel's depth. By the end, I had a better grasp on the intention of the novel, and I imagine more layers would reveal the…

Changes

Good morning! If you're reading this by visiting my blog, you'll notice things look quite a bit different here. I'm still playing around with the new layout, but if you have thoughts (good and bad), I'd love to hear them.

Why the change? Aside from the beautiful background photograph I wanted to incorporate, I desperately wanted to add the new "share widget". Now you'll notice five lovely icons at the bottom of each post (to the right of where you click to add a comment.) You can now share my posts via Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Google Buzz and Gmail.

The look isn't the only new thing around here either. When I first started this blog, I spent at least as much time (and often more time) talking about tv than books. Now that I'm reading literary fiction almost exclusively, I also find myself using television to unwind more and more, and I wanted to start blogging about tv again. After much debate about whether or not to used nomadreader for tv pos…

book review: The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter

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The basics:The Financial Lives of Poets is the story of Matthew Prior, a newspaper reporter who quit his job to start a financial website written in poetry. Seriously. Not surprisingly, this venture has failed, and Matthew now finds his marriage less happy than it once was, his father (in the early stages of dementia) living with them, his sons wishing for electronics, their house on the verge of foreclosure, and himself increasingly desperate.

My thoughts:This novel took me on a roller coaster of a reading experience. I absolutely adored the first few chapters. I was reading it in public and could not stop myself from laughing out loud. The narrative began smart, funny and fresh, as when he describes the uniforms his sons wear to Catholic school:
I think these uniforms wouldn't be so bad if they didn't make the kids all look like bank tellers on casual Friday or the employees of a discount airline or--like me... Throughout the book, the hilarious observations share space with…

book review: An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

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The backstory: I thoroughly enjoyed Charles Todd's first Bess Crawford novel, A Duty to the Dead (my review), so I was eager to read the second mystery in this series.

The basics: An Impartial Witness is once again narrated by British World War I Army nurse Bess Crawford, a delightfully independent, intelligent, feminist woman. Granted, Bess is developing quite a habit of finding herself in the midst of murder investigations, but she's relatively smart about it.

My thoughts: Simply put, I enjoyed this novel even more than the first one. It's also refreshing to discover a mystery series that doesn't need to be read in order. There are a few mentions to the Britanic sinking, but the other events from the first novel (the mystery parts) aren't alluded to. The family and friends of Bess return, but their brief descriptions are helpful reminders for readers of the first book and adequate descriptions for those new to the series. Bottom line: it doesn't matter if you&#…

The 2010 Booker Prize shortlist

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I didn't attempt to publicly predict this year's Booker Prize shortlist because I only finished six of the thirteen novels. I was quite pleased, however, to see that three of the ones I enjoyed made the cut:
Room by Emma Donoghue
I was really pulling for Room, because it became my favorite novel ever. I absolutely adored it (my review) and gave it 6 stars out of 5. Good news, U.S. readers, it will be published here next Tuesday, September 13. Get in line.

The Long Song by Andrea Levy
I called The Long Song "both incredibly literary and incredibly accessible as a story, which is an all too rare combination" (my review) and gave it 4.5 stars

In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut
In a Strange Room was the first of the longlisted novels I read, and I called it "a smart, unique, modern novel" (my review) and gave it 4 stars.

Of the three I've read, I'm happiest to see Room included, but I'm pleased with all three. The three shortlisted novels I haven…

Sunday Salon: A Booker Prize update

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It's Labor Day!
Happy Sunday morning! We here at Casa Nomadreader are gearing up for a delightful gathering of friends and family to celebrate a three-day weekend, but I'm taking a welcome break from cleaning to update you on my Booker Dozen reading progress.

Booker Dozen: a failure of sorts
How am I doing? Not as well as I hoped. The Booker Prize shortlist will be announced Tuesday, and I'm eagerly awaiting the announcement. Despite my plan to read all thirteen of the novels on the longlist by Tuesday, I've only managed to read only six of the thirteen. I did realize this week I've managed to read all of the novels by female authors (plus one by a male author.) I certainly didn't intend to read the female authors first, but I suppose I do naturally gravitate toward woman-authored fiction, so it shouldn't be a surprise.

Now what?
Well, thankfully I enter any optimistic goal with a back-up plan. The shortlist may be announced Tuesday, but the winner won't …