Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"The Shadow of the Wind is a novel for booklovers about booklovers—and the bookstores and libraries where they dwell." ~Pete

While preparing for a recent visit to Barcelona, Spain, one of the travel books I skimmed suggested reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The novel is about a young man growing up in Barcelona whose father takes him to a library of forgotten books, encouraging him to pick just one. The boy blindly grabs a book called  'The Shadow of the Wind' and loves it so much he nearly memorizes each page. But getting another copy proves difficult because a mysterious man in black is burning every copy he can get his hands on, which means the boy's copy is also in peril. Another mystery concerns the author of the book, Julian Carax, who apparently died just as the Spanish Civil War was beginning to erupt. The boy decides to try to solve the mystery of Carax and his book, and uncovers secrets upon secrets that lead to incredible adventures all within the great city of Barcelona.

The Shadow of the Wind is a novel for booklovers about booklovers—and the bookstores and libraries where they dwell. My copy even had maps in the back where all these exciting events took place. If you're going to Barcelona, and even if you're not, I strongly recommend The Shadow of the Wind. Get a copy and hold on tight. There may be someone lurking about who is very interested in what you're reading.


Jackie Got To Sit In On A Couple Of Lighthouse Writers' Lit Fest Events This Summer

and she's finally downloaded the pictures.

Here is Andre Dubus, III, who gave a master class about creating characters.  "I'm not even a writer, but I learned so many cool things from this session.  Now I'm wishing I was closer to where Dubus teaches because I'd LOVE to be his student for awhile.  He's an amazing man." (Jackie)

Here is David Wroblewski with his agent, talking about the agent/writer relationship.  "David is tremendously genuine and very, very funny.  He's a Colorado treasure to be sure.  AND he's working on his next book--yipee!!!" (Jackie)

Want to learn more about the Lighthouse Writers Workshop?  Click HERE.

TC Tidbit: 16 Of The Best Opening Lines From Children’s Books

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jocelyn Gives This One Two Thumbs Up

I loved The Apothecary when it came out 2 years ago and I love the sequel, The Apprentices, hot off the press. Meloy has nailed the art of the sequel- which is seldom accomplished so successfully. Three cheers!

Our main character, Janie Scott, is now in an American prep school, following her passion for chemistry. Those of us who have read the first book remember how Janie's friendship with Benjamin, the son of a far from typical apothecary in England, was the basis of a fantastic adventure that culminated in saving the world from the fallout of an atomic bomb blast.
Now it is two years later and Janie doesn't know where Benjamin and his father are- very frustrating- but! she is immersed in her beloved chemistry project when the forces of jealousy and, yes, evil intervene and all is taken from her.
Should she give up and return to her parent's house in defeat? 
That just isn't Janie's style.
An action packed adventure with just a hint of romance- perfect for mid-grade readers and why not even teens?

How refreshing to read about a high school girl interested in science, adventure and a boy (or 2).

I'm a huge fan- 2 thumbs up up up.
~ Jocelyn

Foodies, Treat Yourself To These Great Books

From acclaimed novelist Kate Christensen, Blue Plate Special is a mouthwatering literary memoir about an unusual upbringing and the long, winding path to happiness.
“To taste fully is to live fully.” For Kate Christensen, food and eating have always been powerful connectors to self and world—“a subterranean conduit to sensuality, memory, desire.” Her appetites run deep; in her own words, she spent much of her life as “a hungry, lonely, wild animal looking for happiness and stability.” Now, having found them at last, in this passionate feast of a memoir she reflects upon her journey of innocence lost and wisdom gained, mistakes made and lessons learned, and hearts broken and mended.
In the tradition of M. F. K. Fisher, Laurie Colwin, and Ruth Reichl, Blue Plate Special is a narrative in which food—eating it, cooking it, reflecting on it—becomes the vehicle for unpacking a life. Christensen explores her history of hunger—not just for food but for love and confidence and a sense of belonging—with a profound honesty, starting with her unorthodox childhood in 1960s Berkeley as the daughter of a mercurial legal activist who ruled the house with his fists. After a whirlwind adolescent awakening, Christensen strikes out to chart her own destiny within the literary world and the world of men, both equally alluring and dangerous. Food of all kinds, from Ho Hos to haute cuisine, remains an evocative constant throughout, not just as sustenance but as a realm of experience unto itself, always reflective of what is going on in her life. She unearths memories—sometimes joyful, sometimes painful—of the love between mother and daughter, sister and sister, and husband and wife, and of the times when the bonds of love were broken. Food sustains her as she endures the pain of these ruptures and fuels her determination not to settle for anything less than the love and contentment for which she’s always yearned.
The physical and emotional sensuality that defines Christensen’s fiction resonates throughout the pages of Blue Plate Special. A vibrant celebration of life in all its truth and complexity, this book is about embracing the world through the transformative power of food: it’s about listening to your appetites, about having faith, and about learning what is worth holding on to and what is not.

Listen to the NPR interview with the author HERE.

A food writer travels the Silk Road, immersing herself in a moveable feast of foods and cultures and discovering some surprising truths about commitment, independence, and love.
Feasting her way through an Italian honeymoon, Jen Lin-Liu was struck by culinary echoes of the delicacies she ate and cooked back in China, where she’d lived for more than a decade. Who really invented the noodle? she wondered, like many before her. But also: How had food and culture moved along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route linking Asia to Europe—and what could still be felt of those long-ago migrations? With her new husband’s blessing, she set out to discover the connections, both historical and personal, eating a path through western China and on into Central Asia, Iran, Turkey, and across the Mediterranean.

The journey takes Lin-Liu into the private kitchens where the headscarves come off and women not only knead and simmer but also confess and confide. The thin rounds of dough stuffed with meat that are dumplings in Beijing evolve into manti in Turkey—their tiny size the measure of a bride’s worth—and end as tortellini in Italy. And as she stirs and samples, listening to the women talk about their lives and longings, Lin-Liu gains a new appreciation of her own marriage, learning to savor the sweetness of love freely chosen.

In the picturesque village of Guzmán, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone chamber known as “the telling room.” Containing nothing but a wooden table and two benches, this is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets—usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine.

It was here, in the summer of 2000, that Michael Paterniti found himself listening to a larger-than-life Spanish cheesemaker named Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras as he spun an odd and compelling tale about a piece of cheese. An unusual piece of cheese. Made from an old family recipe, Ambrosio’s cheese was reputed to be among the finest in the world, and was said to hold mystical qualities. Eating it, some claimed, conjured long-lost memories. But then, Ambrosio said, things had gone horribly wrong. . . .

By the time the two men exited the telling room that evening, Paterniti was hooked. Soon he was fully embroiled in village life, relocating his young family to Guzmán in order to chase the truth about this cheese and explore the fairy tale–like place where the villagers conversed with farm animals, lived by an ancient Castilian code of honor, and made their wine and food by hand, from the grapes growing on a nearby hill and the flocks of sheep floating over the Meseta.

What Paterniti ultimately discovers there in the highlands of Castile is nothing like the idyllic slow-food fable he first imagined. Instead, he’s sucked into the heart of an unfolding mystery, a blood feud that includes accusations of betrayal and theft, death threats, and a murder plot. As the village begins to spill its long-held secrets, Paterniti finds himself implicated in the very story he is writing.

Equal parts mystery and memoir, travelogue and history, The Telling Room is an astonishing work of literary nonfiction by one of our most accomplished storytellers. A moving exploration of happiness, friendship, and betrayal, The Telling Room introduces us to Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras, an unforgettable real-life literary hero, while also holding a mirror up to the world, fully alive to the power of stories that define and sustain us.

TC Tidbit: The Man Booker Prize for Fiction Longlist

Monday, July 29, 2013

"I was seduced into reading this book." ~ Jackie

Chuck Klosterman has walked into the darkness. As a boy, he related to the cultural figures who represented goodness—but as an adult, he found himself unconsciously aligning with their enemies. This was not because he necessarily liked what they were doing; it was because they were doing it on purpose (and they were doing it better). They wanted to be evil. And what, exactly, was that supposed to mean? When we classify someone as a bad person, what are we really saying (and why are we so obsessed with saying it)? How does the culture of deliberate malevolence operate?

In I Wear the Black Hat, Klosterman questions the modern understanding of villainy. What was so Machiavellian about Machiavelli? Why don’t we see Bernhard Goetz the same way we see Batman? Who is more worthy of our vitriol—Bill Clinton or Don Henley? What was O. J. Simpson’s second-worst decision? And why is Klosterman still haunted by some kid he knew for one week in 1985?

Masterfully blending cultural analysis with self-interrogation and imaginative hypotheticals, I Wear the Black Hat delivers perceptive observations on the complexity of the antihero (seemingly the only kind of hero America still creates). I Wear the Black Hat is a rare example of serious criticism that’s instantly accessible and really, really funny. Klosterman continues to be the only writer doing whatever it is he’s doing.

Jackie says:
"I must confess that I have stayed away from Chuck Klosterman despite his popularity (or maybe because of it). He just didn't seem like my kind of author. But he seduced me with an outstanding form letter—brilliant, irresistible and memorably hilarious—into reading I Wear The Black Hat. This is a book about villains, and the list is very impressive. There are many, many cultural observations in this book that really set me back on my heels and made me seriously think about the concept of 'villain' and also 'hero'. The conversation meanders a bit throughout the essays, but it's well worth reading. He knows what he's talking about."

Listen to the NPR interview with the author HERE.

Read the Esquire interview with the author HERE.

The Dog Days of Summer (As Imagined By Kate M.)

Click on the cover to learn more about the book.  Feel free to add more to the list by leaving us a comment.

TC Tidbit: Quirk Books Has A Brilliant Summer Idea

Sunday, July 28, 2013

This Book Is Getting A Lot of Buzz with a Movie Coming Out This Fall that Could Be an Oscar Contender


After living as a free man for the first thirty-three years of his life, Solomon Northup was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery, leaving behind a wife and three children in New York. Sold to a Louisiana plantation owner who was also a Baptist preacher, Northup proceeded to serve several masters, some who were brutally cruel and others whose humanity he praised. After years of bondage, he met an outspoken abolitionist from Canada who notified Northup's family of his whereabouts, and he was subsequently rescued by an official agent of the state of New York.

Twelve Years a Slave is his account of this unusual series of events. Northup describes life on cotton and sugar cane plantations in meticulous detail. One slave narrative scholar calls his narrative "one of the most detailed and realistic portraits of slave life." He also leavens his account with wry humor and cultural commentary, making many parts of the narrative read more like travel writing than abolitionist literature.

Twelve Years a Slave presents the remarkable story of a free man thrown into a hostile and foreign world, who survived by his courage and cunning.

New To Our Shelves...

Bold, touching, and funny—a debut novel by a brilliant young woman about the coming-of-age of a brilliant young literary man

“He was not the kind of guy who disappeared after sleeping with a woman—and certainly not after the condom broke. On the contrary: Nathaniel Piven was a product of a postfeminist 1980s childhood and politically correct, 1990s college education. He had learned all about male privilege. Moreover, he was in possession of a functional and frankly rather clamorous conscience.” – From The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

Nate Piven is a rising star in Brooklyn’s literary scene. After several lean and striving years, he has his pick of both magazine assignments and women: Juliet, the hotshot business reporter; Elisa, his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, now friend; and Hannah, “almost universally regarded as nice and smart, or smart and nice,” who is lively fun and holds her own in conversation with his friends.

In this 21st-century literary world, wit and conversation are not at all dead. Is romance? Novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of a modern man—who thinks of himself as beyond superficial judgment, yet constantly struggles with his own status anxiety, who is drawn to women, yet has a habit of letting them down. With tough-minded intelligence and wry good humor The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is an absorbing tale of one young man’s search for happiness—and an inside look at how he really thinks about women, sex and love.

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”:  a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs.  But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

A shocking, blazingly fast read, Koethi Zan’s debut is a must for fans of Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman, and S.J. Watson.

The funeral of Charles Henry Topping on Manhattan’s Upper East Side would have been a minor affair (his two-hundred-word obit in The New York Times notwithstanding) but for the presence of one particular mourner: the notoriously reclusive author A. N. Dyer, whose novel Ampersand stands as a classic of American teenage angst. But as Andrew Newbold Dyer delivers the eulogy for his oldest friend, he suffers a breakdown over the life he’s led and the people he’s hurt and the novel that will forever endure as his legacy. He must gather his three sons for the first time in many years—before it’s too late.

So begins a wild, transformative, heartbreaking week, as witnessed by Philip Topping, who, like his late father, finds himself caught up in the swirl of the Dyer family. First there’s son Richard, a struggling screenwriter and father, returning from self-imposed exile in California. In the middle lingers Jamie, settled in Brooklyn after his twenty-year mission of making documentaries about human suffering. And last is Andy, the half brother whose mysterious birth tore the Dyers apart seventeen years ago, now in New York on spring break, determined to lose his virginity before returning to the prestigious New England boarding school that inspired Ampersand. But only when the real purpose of this reunion comes to light do these sons realize just how much is at stake, not only for their father but for themselves and three generations of their family.

In this daring feat of fiction, David Gilbert establishes himself as one of our most original, entertaining, and insightful authors. & Sons is that rarest of treasures: a startlingly imaginative novel about families and how they define us, and the choices we make when faced with our own mortality.

Philippa Gregory, #1 New York Times best­selling author and “the queen of royal fiction” (USA Today), presents the latest Cousins’ War novel, the remarkable story of Elizabeth of York, daughter of the White Queen.

When Henry Tudor picks up the crown of England from the mud of Bosworth field, he knows he must marry the princess of the enemy house—Elizabeth of York—to unify a country divided by war for nearly two decades.

But his bride is still in love with his slain enemy, Richard III—and her mother and half of England dream of a missing heir, sent into the unknown by the White Queen. While the new monarchy can win power, it cannot win hearts in an England that plots for the triumphant return of the House of York.

Henry’s greatest fear is that somewhere a prince is waiting to invade and reclaim the throne. When a young man who would be king leads his army and invades England, Elizabeth has to choose between the new husband she is coming to love and the boy who claims to be her beloved lost brother: the rose of York come home at last.

TC Tidbit: Bill Gates's Recommended Reading List

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Liz and Michele Are Recommending:

The Deep Whatsis follows a brilliant antihero staggering into madness as he navigates among Brooklyn hipsters, advertising tyrants, corporate hypocrisy, and the ghosts of his past.

Meet Eric Nye: player, philosopher, drunk, sociopath. A ruthless young Chief Idea Officer at a New York City ad agency, Eric downsizes his department, guzzles only the finest Sancerre, pops pills, and chases women. Then one day he meets Intern, whose name he can’t remember. Will she be the cause of his downfall, or his unlikely awakening?

A gripping and hilarious satire of the inherent absurdity of advertising and the flippant cruelty of corporate behavior, The Deep Whatsis shows the devastating effects of a world where civility and respect have been fired.

The rocking motion of the train as it speeds along, the sound of its wheels on the rails . . . There’s something special about this form of travel that makes for easy conversation, which is just what happens to the four strangers who meet in Trains and Lovers.

As they journey by rail from Edinburgh to London, the four travelers pass the time by sharing tales of trains that have changed their lives. A young, keen-eyed Scotsman recounts how he turned a friendship with a female coworker into a romance by spotting an anachronistic train in an eighteenth-century painting. An Australian woman shares how her parents fell in love and spent their life together running a railroad siding in the remote Australian Outback. A middle-aged American patron of the arts sees two young men saying goodbye in a train station and recalls his own youthful crush on another man. And a young Englishman describes how exiting his train at the wrong station allowed him to meet an intriguing woman whom he impulsively invited to dinner—and into his life.

Here is Alexander McCall Smith at his most enchanting, exploring the nature of love—and trains—in a collection of romantic, intertwined stories.

From the incomparable David Rakoff, a poignant, beautiful, witty, and wise novel in verse whose scope spans the twentieth century

Through his books and his radio essays for NPR's This American Life, David Rakoff has built a deserved reputation as one of the finest and funniest essayists of our time. Written with humor, sympathy, and tenderness, this intricately woven novel proves him to be the master of an altogether different art form.

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish leaps cities and decades as Rakoff sings the song of an America whose freedoms can be intoxicating, or brutal. 

The characters' lives are linked to each other by acts of generosity or cruelty. A daughter of Irish slaughterhouse workers in early-twentieth-century Chicago faces a desperate choice; a hobo offers an unexpected refuge on the rails during the Great Depression; a vivacious aunt provides her clever nephew a path out of the crushed dream of postwar Southern California; an office girl endures the casually vicious sexism of 1950s Manhattan; the young man from Southern California revels in the electrifying sexual and artistic openness of 1960s San Francisco, then later tends to dying friends and lovers as the AIDS pandemic devastates the community he cherishes; a love triangle reveals the empty materialism of the Reagan years; a marriage crumbles under the distinction between self-actualization and humanity; as the new century opens, a man who has lost his way finds a measure of peace in a photograph he discovers in an old box—an image of pure and simple joy that unites the themes of this brilliantly conceived work.

Rakoff's insistence on beauty and the necessity of kindness in a selfish world raises the novel far above mere satire.  A critic once called Rakoff "magnificent," a word that perfectly describes this wonderful novel in verse.

From the internationally acclaimed author of the Kurt Wallander crime novels, a powerful stand-alone novel set in early-twentieth-century Sweden and Mozambique, whose vividly drawn female protagonist is awoken from her naïveté by her exposure to racism and by her own unexpected inner strengths.

Cold and poverty define Hanna Renström’s childhood in remote northern Sweden, and in 1904, at nineteen, she boards a ship for Australia in hope of a better life.  But none of her hopes—or fears—prepares her for the life she will lead. After two brief marriages both leave her widowed, she finds herself the owner of a bordello in Portuguese East Africa, a world where colonialism and white colonists rule, where she is isolated within white society by her profession and her gender, and, among the bordello’s black prostitutes, by her color.
As Hanna’s story unfurls over the next several years in this “treacherous paradise,” she wrestles with a devastating loneliness and with the racism she’s meant to unthinkingly adopt. And as her life becomes increasingly intertwined with the prostitutes’, she moves inexorably toward the moment when she will make a decision that defies all the expectations society has of her and, more important, those she has of herself.

Gripping in its drama, evocative and searing in its portrait of colonial Africa, A Treacherous Paradise is, at its heart, a deeply moving story of a woman who manages to wrench wisdom, empathy, and grace from the most unforgiving circumstances.

“An elegant narrative that’s as entertaining as it is historically accurate… A must-read.” ~Publishers Weekly

It was the most famous bank robbery of all time, involving the legendary James-Younger gang's final shocking holdup—the infamous Northfield Raid—and the thrilling two-week chase that followed. Mark Lee Gardner, author of the critically acclaimed To Hell on a Fast Horse, takes us inside Northfield's First National Bank and outside to the streets as Jesse James and his band of outlaws square off against the heroic citizens who risked their lives to defeat America's most daring criminals. With vivid detail and novelistic verve, Gardner follows the James brothers as they elude both the authorities and the furious citizen posses hell-bent on capturing them in one of the largest manhunts in the history of the United States. He reveals the serendipitous endings of the Younger brothers—Cole, Jim, and Bob—and explores the James brothers' fates after the dust settled, solving mysteries about the raid that have been hotly debated for more than 130 years.

A galloping true tale of frontier justice featuring audacious outlaws and intrepid heroes, Shot All to Hell is a riveting slice of Wild West history that continues to fascinate today.

Read a short interview with the author HERE. 

TC Tidbit: 24 Classic Books' Original Titles

Friday, July 26, 2013

"I highly recommend this book for the airplane, the beach bag, or the patio this summer." ~Miki

Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man-perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Miki says:
"Austenland is the perfect book for person who loves Pride and Prejudice just a little bit obsessively.  The main character, Jane, is a woman who is down on her luck with men.  She has has so many failed relationships, that those close to her are beginning to worry.  According to her aunt and her best friend, Jane has one major flaw.  She is so obsessed with Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy, that she has no real idea what to expect in an actual relationship with and ACTUAL man.  Her whole idea of love is based on a fictional couple written by a woman who never actually fell in love herself.

When Jane's aunt passes away, she leaves one final gift for Jane in her will.  She sends her on an all expense paid trip to England to Pembrook Park.  Pembrook Park is a place where women can pay to become a part of the Austen era.  The aunt gave her this gift as a way to break Jane of her Darcy habit.  The only problem is, there is a good chance that Jane might get lost in Austenland for good.  

This book was such a fun read.  I loved the Pride and Prejudice references.  I also enjoyed the awkwardness and hilarity of a modern woman in Austen society.  Jane shows that it might not be so easy for us modern women to survive in the fantasies that so many of us have.  

Hale has a great sense of humor.  I highly recommend this book for the airplane, the beach bag, or the patio this summer.  Also, this is set to be a movie soon, so read it before you watch it."

These Books Will Keep You Up All Night

Michael Hiebert's remarkable debut novel tells the riveting story of a small southern town haunted by tragedy, one brave woman's struggle to put a troubling mystery to rest--and its impact on the sensitive boy who comes of age in the midst of it all. . .

Abe Teal wasn't even born when Ruby Mae Vickers went missing twelve years ago. Few people in Alvin, Alabama, talk about the months spent looking for her, or about how Ruby Mae's lifeless body was finally found beneath a willow tree. Even Abe's mom, Leah, Alvin's only detective, has avoided the subject. But now, another girl is missing.

Fourteen-year-old Mary Ann Dailey took the bus home from school as usual, then simply vanished. Townsfolk comb the dense forests and swampy creeks to no avail. Days later, Tiffany Michelle Yates disappears. Abe saw her only hours before, holding an ice cream cone and wearing a pink dress.

Observant and smart, Abe watches his mother battle small-town bureaucracy and old resentments, desperate to find both girls and quietly frantic for her own children's safety. As the search takes on a terrifying urgency, Abe traverses the shifting ground between innocence and hard-won understanding, eager to know and yet fearing what will be revealed.
Dream with Little Angels is by turns lyrical, heartbreaking, and shocking--a brilliantly plotted novel of literary suspense and of the dark shadows, painful secrets, and uncompromising courage in one small town.

Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Both are at the mercy of their unrelenting wants and needs, and both are unaware that the path they are on is careening toward murder. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event, oblivious of the destiny they are jointly creating, caught in the thrall of disaster unfolding.

Chapter by chapter, the narrative evolves from their alternating perspectives. He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds. She likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps. She has nothing left to lose. The alternating voices pitch the reader back and forth between protagonists in conflict who are fighting for self-preservation, both of them making deeply consequential mistakes, behaving in ever more foolhardy ways, losing at the games they’re playing.

The Silent Wife is a finely wrought, emotionally charged psychological thriller about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept. Expertly plotted and reminiscent of Gone Girl and These Things Hidden, The Silent Wife ensnares the reader from page one and doesn’t let go.

TC Literary Tidbit: George Bernard Shaw was born on this day in 1856

George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950) was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60 plays. He was also an essayist, novelist and short story writer. Nearly all his writings address prevailing social problems, but have a vein of comedy which makes their stark themes more palatable. Issues which engaged Shaw's attention included education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege.

He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize in Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name), respectively.  Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright because he had no desire for public honours, but accepted it at his wife's behest: she considered it a tribute to Ireland. He did reject the monetary award, requesting it be used to finance translation of fellow playwright August Strindberg's works from Swedish to English .  Wikipedia

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"... since I can honestly say I also learned something, this book would be helpful to an audience of a wide age range." ~Jocelyn


Did you know the Grinch was on a quest? What does it mean when a hero takes a journey? Gets caught in the rain? Or eats green eggs and ham? And what are vampires really about?

One thing is certain—there's always more to a story than you think!

In this funny and practical young readers' version of Thomas C. Foster's New York Times bestselling book How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Foster offers a whole new perspective on reading, drawing from a wide range of classics and favorites to explore what stories mean to us and how we can understand them. Using all genres—novels, short stories, plays, poems, movies, and song lyrics—Foster gives kids the hidden tools for reading, making it fun and exciting!

Browse inside the book HERE.

Jocelyn says:
"Thomas Foster refers to modern and classic literature while  giving examples of how recognizing symbolism adds a depth and richness to the enjoyment of 'most any story in his surprisingly interesting book How To Read Literature Like A Professor For Kids. He writes in a breezy, easy to grasp style that is perfect for both hardcore and more casual mid-grade readers, though since I can honestly say I also learned something, this book would be helpful to an audience of a wide age range.

This book can be enjoyed on more than one level, so it could be read multiple times and give the reader more each time. I'm going to send a copy to a gifted 3rd grader, but I am serious when I say most middle and high schoolers would learn something from it, too. 2 thumbs up!"

Eric B.'s Recommending:

In "one of the most deliciously high-concept thrillers imaginable" (The New Yorker) a young JFK travels to Europe on a secret mission for President Roosevelt

It’s the spring of 1939, and the prospect of war in Europe looms large. The United States has no intelligence service. In Washington, D.C., President Franklin Roosevelt may run for an unprecedented third term and needs someone he can trust to find out what the Nazis are up to. His choice: John F. Kennedy.

It’s a surprising selection. At twenty-two, Jack Kennedy is the attractive but unpromising second son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Roosevelt’s ambassador to Britain (and occasional political adversary). But when Jack decides to travel through Europe to gather research for his Harvard senior thesis, Roosevelt takes the opportunity to use him as his personal spy. The president’s goal: to stop the flow of German money that has been flooding the United States to buy the 1940 election—an election that Adolf Hitler intends Roosevelt lose.

In a deft mosaic of fact and fiction, Francine Mathews has written a gripping espionage tale that explores what might have happened when a young Jack Kennedy is let loose in Europe as the world careens toward war. A potent combination of history and storytelling, Jack 1939 is a sexy, entertaining read.

Recently returned from fin de siècle Vienna, where she tragically lost the first great love of her life, Eleanor Burden settles into her expected place in Boston society, marries a suitable husband, and waits for life to come to her. Eleanor’s story is not unlike that of the other young women she grew up with in 1890’s Boston, except for one difference: Eleanor believes herself to have advance knowledge of every major historical event to come in her lifetime. But soon Eleanor’s script of events begins to unravel, and she must find the courage of her deepest convictions, discover the difference between predetermination and free will, find faith in her own sanity, and decide whether she will allow history to unfold come what may — or use her extraordinary gifts to bend history and deliver the life she is meant to have.

Winner of the 2013 Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction - a poignant, darkly comic debut novel about a father and son finding their way together as their livelihood inexorably disappears

When Stacey “Shakespeare” Williams returns to the family farm in eastern Colorado to bury his dead cat, he finds his widowed father, Emmett, living in squalor. There’s no money, the land is fallow, and a local banker has cheated the senile Emmett out of the majority of the farm equipment and his beloved Cessna.

Unemployed and without prospects, Shakespeare settles in as caretaker to both his dad and the farm while simultaneously getting drawn into an unlikely clique of former classmates. Threatened with the farm’s foreclosure, Shakespeare, Emmett, and his misfit friends hatch a half-serious plot to rob the very bank that stole their future.

TC Literary Tidbit: On this day in 1897...

...Jack London heads off to join the Klondike Gold Rush, where he will write his first successful stories.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Where's Booker? Hanging With The Dream Team

The book began by dispelling what is probably still a commonly held myth, that it was USA basketball that wanted professional basketball players in the Olympics.  The first chapter related the story of the former meat inspector turned FIBA (Fédération Internationale de Basketball) observer, Boris Stankovic,  who came to the United States to watch basketball  being played.   It was 1974, well before the era of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, but even then, it was clear to him that professional basketball in America was at a different level while watching Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Walt Frazier, and Pete Maravich play.    He said, "My concern was trying to make the game of basketball strong, to grow it, and yet there was the separation [between the amateur level and professional level].  It became impossible for me to tolerate."

It was 10 years before Boris Stankovic met with David Stern and Russ Granik, commissioner and deputy commissioner of the NBA to broach the subject.    By that time, Magic and Bird had reinvigorated the NBA  and a young Chicago Bull, Michael Jordan was in his second year in the league. 

The momentum was growing both for the NBA and the possibility for a sort of super team, an A-Team,  a group of basketball mutants or Avengers.  McCallum detailed the highs and lows of each player selected and several things stood out about them.  First, they came from very diverse their backgrounds and upbringings.  They, quite literally, represented America as the great American melting pot.  Second, how driven and competitive each of the Dream Team members were.  They didn't accept anything less than being the best.  In example after example, McCallum describes how each of these stars were already blessed with world class athletic ability.  However, what made each one of them the greatest at their position and led to their inclusion, is because they individually outworked everyone else, their drive.   The team of Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, and John Stockton gave America and the world something to remember forever.  And Pistons coach, Chuck Daly was able to bring all of them together in a way that probably only he could.  

By the time professional stars were allowed, Larry Bird was battling constant back problems, Magic Johnson had declared that he was HIV positive, when this was still new to the American consciousness, and Michael Jordan was in his prime.  They signed on to play for USA Basketball and created a Beatles like sensation everywhere they went during the Barcelona Olympics.  Twenty four hour security in a hotel that housed them and their families made for a very different experience than the other Olympians in the Olympic village.

McCallum also wrote about the agents, the endorsements, the egos, and ultimately the play that resulted in the most dominating performances game after game against overwhelmed basketball teams who were as star struck as those attending the Olympics or watching on TV from home.  McCallum does not gloss over the darker moments  like when Charles Barkley elbowed an undersized Angolan who idolized him or when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen played such ruthless defense on their future Bull teammate, Toni Kukoc.  But, he portrayed a moment in time where multimillionaires with nothing to gain exemplified to the world what happens when the best athletes put aside everything else in the name of the team.

Near the end of the book, McCallum described the international impact of this Dream Team as so many of the current, international, NBA stars were watching as teenagers or college students at the time.  These included  Dirk Nowitzki, in Germany now of the Dallas Mavericks,  Manu Ginobili, in Argentina, of the San Antonio Spurs, Pau Gasol from Spain of the Lakers, Mehmet Okur from Turkey, Tony Parker in France, Tim Duncan of the Bahamas, and Canadian Steve Nash.   All of their athletic and, at times,  their career paths took a dramatic shift by watching the Dream Team.

Readers who enjoyed other books portraying sports and its place in history like David Halberstam's Playing for Keeps, Jane Leavy's Sandy Koufax:  A Lefty's Legacy, or David Remnick's King of the World:  Muhammed Ali and the Rise of an American Hero will enjoy McCallum's Dream Team.


"Jeweled with the kind of narrative intricacies and heights of fancy that transform a good story into a sensory glut, in this mesmerizing debut, Sidorova reduces you to a primal state of readership, casting you into darkness so vast that you have no choice but to press on and discover what about it feels so familiar. The Age of Ice rekindles every far-flung childhood memory you have of what it means to experience a great book." ~Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife

The Empress Anna Ioannovna has issued her latest eccentric order: construct a palace out of ice blocks. Inside its walls her slaves build a wedding chamber, a canopy bed on a dais, heavy drapes cascading to the floor—all made of ice. Sealed inside are a disgraced nobleman and a deformed female jester. On the empress’s command—for her entertainment—these two are to be married, the relationship consummated inside this frozen prison. In the morning, guards enter to find them half-dead. Nine months later, two boys are born.

Surrounded by servants and animals, Prince Alexander Velitzyn and his twin brother, Andrei, have an idyllic childhood on the family’s large country estate. But as they approach manhood, stark differences coalesce. Andrei is daring and ambitious; Alexander is tentative and adrift. One frigid winter night on the road between St. Petersburg and Moscow, as he flees his army post, Alexander comes to a horrifying revelation: his body is immune to cold.

J. M. Sidorova’s boldly original and genrebending novel takes readers from the grisly fields of the Napoleonic Wars to the blazing heat of Afghanistan, from the outer reaches of Siberia to the cacophonous streets of nineteenth-century Paris. The adventures of its protagonist, Prince Alexander Velitzyn—on a lifelong quest for the truth behind his strange physiology—will span three continents and two centuries and bring him into contact with an incredible range of real historical figures, from Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, to the licentious Russian empress Elizaveta and Arctic explorer Joseph Billings.

The Age of Ice is one of the most enchanting and inventive debut novels of the year.

You can get a little taste of this book HERE.

TC Tidbit: A Wonderful NPR Interview with Gillian Flynn