Books Gifted in December 2013

Family members know my husband and I are book people. Hardly a year goes by that someone doesn’t receive a book from us. Here are some of the books given this month:

  • Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Jon Klassen – My sister-in-law and I knit so my niece has seen firsthand what can be done with a bit of colorful yarn and two sticks. ūüôā My niece likes the book so much she had someone read it to her after it was unwrapped, later that day and was certain to ask for it at bedtime.
  • The Art and Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy by Jody Duncan Jesser and Janine Pourroy – My brother is a huge Batman fan and he liked the movies. The only thing better would be some alternate universe comic where Batman and Wolverine have to combine forces against a villain.
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – It was on my wish list but is something I’ve been dying to read. I mean… it’s a KATE ATKINSON BOOK! That’s something to get excited about. I looked for it a few times at the local bookstore but never found it in stock.
  • An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield – My father-in-law enjoys memoirs and books based on true events. I heard Col. Chris Hadfield’s interview on NPR and thought he had some interesting situations happen to him and they’d make for interesting reading.
  • The Book of Schmaltz by Michael Ruhlman – Ruhlman is an Ohio author and I like his books. I thought it a longshot my mother would try to make any of the recipes but thought she’d enjoy it. Within a few days she’d read it from front to back. It reminds her of food made by her aunts.
  • Still Foolin’ ‘Em by Billy Crystal – As long as I can remember my mother has liked him. I recall my parents watching Soap and I’m sure he was one reason. My mother says she chuckled a few times within the first few pages.
  • A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert – One of my sister-in-laws loves little house on the prairie. A few years ago I gave her The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure which she seemed to like. I think the Ingalls-Wilder clan has been mined enough and won’t be revisited for a long time.

I recall my husband was trying to decide between a book of poetry and a memoir for someone’s birthday. I can’t remember what he decided on. Maybe I’ll post these book gifts during months we give books so you can maybe get some book ideas too.

Mailbox Monday – March 14th

Mailbox Monday

A big thank you to Marcia at The Printed Page for¬†originating Mailbox Monday.¬† This weekly meme is now on tour.¬† The hostess for March is Laura of I’m Booking It.¬† Be forewarned that reading and participating in Mailbox Monday posts can increase your TBR pile.

I honestly didn’t think I’d have anything to write about this week.¬† I (thought) I was pre-ordering Kate Atkinson’s¬†newest Jackson Brodie¬†book Started Early, Took My Dog.¬† Imagine my surprise when it showed up late this week.¬† I made a date to read it this weekend and I guarantee it won’t disappoint her fans.

What arrived in your mailbox this week?

My Favorite Reads of 2010

Last year I read over 60 books and surprisingly, my top five favorites were read mostly at the beginning of the year.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t write reviews of all of them.¬† For the ones that don’t have reviews, I’ll be writing those later this week.¬† Not all of¬†my favorite reads¬†were released in 2010.¬† My husband will be surprised Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy didn’t make the list and I’m a little surprised too.¬† They weren’t books I wanted to force into people’s hands to read although they certainly have tweaked my perspective about Sweden a bit.

Here they are in the order I read them:

  1. The Outlander by Gil Adamson
  2. Spellbent by Lucy A. Snyder
  3. One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
  4. Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave
  5. When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

I didn’t set out to do any challenges this year but I did want to read Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.¬† It’s been sitting on my TBR pile since December 2008.¬† I failed but will definitely read it this year.¬† How can I write that with confidence?¬† Because I started reading it two weeks ago.

What were your favorite reads this year?

When Will There Be Good News? – Kate Atkinson

When Will There Be Good News? Book Cover

Title: When Will There Be Good News?
Author: Kate Atkinson
Publisher: Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company
Source:Miriam at Hachette Book Group

Atkinson’s writing pulls the reader into another world where bad things happen but there is always someone who wants to prevent the bad things or pick up the pieces afterwards.¬† The first part of the book, titled “The Past” takes the reader to a summer day thirty years before the present day tale begins.¬† The reader gets so caught up in the the events of that day it takes a while to realize the little girl is now a woman with her own family.

Jackson Brodie and Louise Monroe¬†(both featured characters in One Good Turn) do more than cross paths and have made permanent marks in each other’s lives.¬† As far as I can recall, this is the only book I’ve read in which a secondary character gets primary character billing in a sequel.¬† I read somewhere¬†Walter Mosley has done this but I’ve not seen it for myself.¬†

Most of the time I read a book in a vacuum because there isn’t anyone else to talk to about it.¬† The readers in my life either don’t read the same books as me or they read them years after I do.¬† This is one of those books I wish I could talk to someone about.¬†¬†The ending caught me by surprise and my heart broke a little.¬† Some authors believe in putting their characters through hell to create a metamorphosis.¬† All I can say without providing any spoilers is¬†there better be a happy ending but I doubt it’s coming.

Author Bio
Kate Atkinson lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum,was named Whitbread Book of the Year in the U.K. in 1995, and was followed by Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Not the End of the World, Case Histories and One Good Turn.

One Good Turn – Kate Atkinson

One Good Turn Book Cover

What does a writer, two teenagers, the wife of a shoddy home builder, and a retired cop turned ex-detective now millionaire have in common?¬† They’re all witnesses to a fender bender at the Edinburgh festival.¬† It’s a seemingly ordinary accident that quickly escalates into an assault before being diffused by the writer.

And this writer doesn’t use words to get the situation under control.¬† In fact, he’s a writer who is a little bit tired of words.¬† Or more accurately, the words and exploits of the main character in his series of best selling novels.¬† His actions have unintended consequences.

The teenagers are cutting class and looking for a thrill.  One is headed towards a life of crime Рtoo intelligent and bored for his own good.  The other is an awkward teen who happens to be the son of a police detective, Louise Monroe.  Louise ends up investigating events that may or may not be related to the car accident.

Louise and her son, Archie, live in one of the poorly constructed homes built by Gloria’s husband.¬† When the home construction business was small Gloria kept the books.¬† Now she’s cut out of the day to day stuff but she knows the homes aren’t built well or with good materials.¬† Investigators are closing in on her husband’s business.

Jackson Brodie from Case Histories returns to One Good Turn as a man trying to find himself.¬† The curse of being a millionaire is the lack of purpose in one’s life.¬† He’s helped finance a play at the Edinburgh festival with his girlfriend as one of its cast members.¬† Uncomfortable in London or his house in Paris this is a holiday from his ordinary life.¬†

This novel was a delight from beginning to end.  Tense moments, such as a Jackson Brodie alley fight scene, can turn comical with just a few unexpected words.

One thing I noticed is the reader gets to hear the important characters’ thoughts.¬† While more than one of these characters can be in a scene together, the reader only gets to know what one character is thinking.¬† Any more and it would get to be a confusing jumble.¬†

Atkinson’s next novel, When Will There Be Good News?, has Jackson Brodie and Louise Monroe in it.¬† I swore I wouldn’t let myself read it until I was done with this review.¬† I cheated and began reading it a few days ago; that’s how badly I wanted to know what happens to them.

You can find out more about Kate Atkinson and her books on the Kate Atkinson Ning Group.

Title: One Good Turn
Author: Kate Atkinson
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source: My Personal Library

Mailbox Monday – February 1st

Mailbox Monday

A big thank you to Marcia at The Printed Page for hosting Mailbox Monday.  This week was a big one for me since I went to Toronto for a few days and tried to pick up some books by Canadian authors while there.

Not shown in the picture is Unearthed: An Anthology of Suspensein e-book format from Edmond Cheng.¬† Novellas included in the anthology are “Last Fragment” by Shawn McPike, “Help Me” by David A. Stelzig, “Crown of the Earth” by Seth E. Lender, and “Illusion” by Edmond Cheng.

Miriam with the Hachette Book Group sent me a copy of When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson.  A fitting arrival since I finished One Good Turn over the weekend. 

The other books were all obtained on my trip.¬† The Manual of Detectionby Jebediah Berry.¬† Though he’s not Canadian,¬†I found this book on a table and found the blurb¬†from¬†The New Yorker irresistible.¬† “From the classic tropes of the detective procedural, this debut novel weaves the kind of¬†mannered fantasy¬†that might result if¬†Wes Anderson were to adapt¬†Kafka.”¬† Continue reading Mailbox Monday – February 1st

Writing Advice: Learning From The Masters

In October 2009 I was fortunate to meet, very briefly, one of the smartest and prolific authors of my time, Francine Prose.  She was in town to talk about her latest book, Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife.  The format for her visit, she said, was different from her other stops to talk about it.  She would discuss the book and research for it, read some passages, and then take questions.  Honestly, it felt like a master class to me and I envied her students.

Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife is not the book she originally set out to write at all.¬† Prose wanted to write a novel with a teenager as the main character and what better source could there be but Anne Frank? (I’ve had Prose’s Reading Like A Writer on my TBR¬†pile for years but I promise this is the year I will read it!)¬† From there she got so caught up in Anne Frank as a writer that she wrote a different book altogether.¬† Many multiple published authors believe if you want to write well that it’s good to know why or how other writers¬†were able to pull off an idea or theme successfully.

The last week or so I’ve been taking mental notes on Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn. I know this will not be my first reading of it.¬† Back in November 2006 I wrote over 15,000 words of a novel originally titled Untitled 2006 for lack of a better name.¬† As always, I thought an appropriate title would spring up along the way.¬† In One Good Turn¬†Atkinson has one event happen seen from multiple points of view and then slowly all the people who witnessed the event are tied together.¬† They’re strangers so they don’t know they’re connected.¬† In Untitled 2006 I had one event happen and then began writing a chapter about each key person who witnessed or was part of the event but overlooked the extraordinary thing about it.¬† But I ran out of steam after a while¬†mainly because¬†I didn’t know what that extraordinary thing was.¬† After several years I still don’t know but that doesn’t mean the day won’t come when I will have that answer.