TSS: I’ve Been Reading With My Nook!

Sunday SalonWoah! Sunday Salon post. I haven’t done one of these in years. I’ve missed it. I didn’t purposely stop posting them, but it is so easy to get out of the habit of doing something once you let it slide her and there. I miss the personal approach, but to make it easy for me to keep up the habit I will bullet point these, and just let the thoughts flow. We’ll see.

  • This weekend my cousin has come to visit. She is thirteen and wanted to stay for  week, which I had to swiftly veto. Too much going for a long visit at this time, but we have spent the weekend gossiping, reading and having laughs and good food. She is reading A.C. Gaughen’s Scarlet, Robin Hood fan that she is. It was one of my birthday gifts to her back in May.
  • I go in waves of whether I read on my Nook or not. Lately I have been reading a book on it here and there, and I finally finished some books I had been working in for months. Both are books which I had mixed feelings on, so that also might have contributed to how long it took me to read them. One was Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder and the other was Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by M.E. Thomas. Winders books felt tentative and contradictory at time. It seemed to me as if maybe there wasn’t quite enough for a books on that summer. Thomas’s book seemed largely anecdotal, and while that hold some appeal, it would have helped if it were paired more solidly with research.
  • One book that I read fairly quickly, was Deborah Meyler’s The Bookstore, which I reviewed yesterday. There were moment where it really shined, but I felt a lack of coherence in the characters that made for a frustrating read.
  • The next task that I will set myself is sorting out the Nook. It tends to collect lots of expired ARCS, so I will need to go through and delete those, and then see what I can still read before my time is up. I rarely get to ALL THE THINGS I have bought for the Nook. Sort of like books I’ve bought versus review copies.

For the rest of the day, I will be brunching and reading Duplex: A Novel by Kathryn Davis. It’s super weird, but also really good. What are you all up to? Anything good?

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The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler – Book Review

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

The Bookstore

Gallery Books
August 20, 2013

Publisher’s Description: Impressionable and idealistic, Esme Garland is a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York. She loves her apartment and is passionate about the city and her boyfriend; her future couldn’t look brighter. Until she finds out that she’s pregnant.

Esme’s boyfriend, Mitchell van Leuven, is old-money rich, handsome, successful, and irretrievably damaged. When he dumps Esme—just before she tries to tell him about the baby—she resolves to manage alone. She will keep the child and her scholarship, while finding a part-time job to make ends meet. But that is easier said than done, especially on a student visa.

The Owl is a shabby, second-hand bookstore on the Upper West Side, an all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters: handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke; Chester, who hyperventilates at the mention of Lolita; George, the owner, who lives on protein shakes and idealism; and a motley company of the timeless, the tactless, and the homeless. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme—but will it be enough to sustain her? Even when Mitchell, repentant and charming, comes back on the scene?

A rousing celebration of books, of the shops where they are sold, and of the people who work, read, and live in them, The Bookstore is also a story about emotional discovery, the complex choices we all face, and the accidental inspirations that make a life worth the reading.

I went into The Bookstore expecting to really enjoy it. Sadly I didn’t as much as I had hoped, but I was invested enough to read until the end to find out what happened to Esme and her pregnancy.

A lot of this novel unfolds in conversations, and I didn’t find very many of them to be convincing, or particularly interesting. Part of the problem is that about half take place in the bookstore, The Owl (I guess to be expected in a novel so titled). I learned some things about all of them, but I didn’t get a chance to know anyone beyond superficial interactions. There wasn’t much depth.

Esme’s relationship with Mitchell was also problematic. He shows repeatedly that he doesn’t seem to be that much in love, and was such an ass to the point that it seems as if Meyler is hinting at mental illness or some sort of deficiency. Their relationship and the depth of Esme’s feelings for him never made sense. Esme seemed to like him well enough in the beginning, but was also much more concerned about school, and the new life she was building in New York. In many respects her behavior did make sense for a woman in love, and in a toxic relationship. I just didn’t see the love, so it was very hard to understand why she went through the things she did.

It wasn’t all loss. I did enjoy the descriptions of the bookstore and some of the patrons, Esme’s work on her graduate degree, and the discussions of authors, artists, novels, and the literary life in general. My finishing The Bookstore was driven by trying to see what perspective Esme gains around choices concerning her pregnancy and relationship, but unfortunately the novel’s conclusion was unsatisfying. It ended rather abruptly – with few indications of where Esme will go next, or how much of her past has been resolved. Less ambiguity by the end would have gone a long way in shaping how I felt by the novel’s end. As it stands, I was more disappointed than not.

Read More Reviews At: Boxes of PaperA Girl, Books and Other ThingsThe Things You Can Read

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Giveaway: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

GoldfinchesDonna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is one of the most anticipated fiction releases of the Fall 2013 season. I loved The Secret History, and Tartt hasn’t written a book in (count ’em!) eleven years. So far I have read the first couple hundred pages, and it is an absorbing read. I’m looking forward to a break in my schedule so that I can finish it!

Via  Bloggers Recommend and Little, Brown and Company, I can offer you the opportunity to receive an advanced copy before the books hits stores on October 22nd. I have three copies to offer LB readers!  If you haven’t already subscribed to Bloggers Recommend, you should do it today! There are fabulous book recommendations each month (as my to-read pile can attest!) by a wide variety of avid readers and bloggers, and great giveaways and opportunities that are only open to newsletter subscribers.  If you’re a book blogger, you can even submit your own recommendations.

Subscribe to Bloggers Recommend here, and visit its blog here, and follow its Facebook page here.

And now, about the book!

From the Publisher:

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate

If you’d like to win an early copy of The Goldfinch, leave me a comment here and I will pick three names on Sunday, September 1.

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Out of Twenty: Liza Klaussmann, Author of Tigers in Red Weather, Answers Eight Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim  author and they choose their own interview by Liza Klaussman picking  which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer. Liza Klaussmann’s novel, Tigers in Red Weather, tells the story of  two cousins who discover they are not leading the lives they dreamed, waking up to the fact after twelve years and their children’s discovery of a brutal murder. Here is what Liza had to say about reading, writing, and the fascinating history behind “widow’s walks” that she didn’t include in her book.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write? 

I’m Liza Klaussmann — author of Tigers in Red Weather, a which might be best summed up as a family drama cum literary thrilled, although that’s not entirely accurate. I am a fan of noir films and literature, so there is a hint of that in there, as well as a Fitzgerald enthusiast, another influence on the book.  I used to be a journalist, most recently an editor for The New York Time’s Deal Book blog, but now have the luxury of being a full-time fiction writer.

I think I always wanted to be a writer, every since I was very young. I studied creative writing in college, but I didn’t really give a serious shot until I did my masters degree at Royal Holloway, in London. I began my first novel, Tigers, there and when it was finished was lucky enough to find publishers for it. So I guess, while selling the  novel is often what I think of as the real start to my writing career, in fact it began much earlier. Or the groundwork did, at least.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

My food during the writing day is generally a pretty sorry affair — too much coffee, some cigarettes, and anything for lunch that’s fast to eat and won’t make me too sleepy — cheese and tomatoes, cold chicken, bread and butter, soup etc.  And this is from someone who really appreciates good food and wine. (Thus dinner is generally more extravagant to make up for it — and the lucky times I get to go out to lunch, I really go to town.)

Music is also fairly important; my first novel was set between 1945 and 1969, and the one I’m working on now is also historical, so I generally listen to music from the year I’m writing about while I work in order to get the feeling, the atmosphere of what my characters were living through, listening to, dancing to, whatever.

And when I’m going through a hard time with a passage or chapter or character, I’ll read a little literary criticism or essays on writing right before I start. One book that’s gotten me through some particularly hard time is Charles Baxter’s Burning Down the House. I recommend it highly.

What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?  Has writing your own book changed the way that you read? 

I just read the The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch which is absolutely wonderful and, as it happens, very enlightening on the topic of food. Also, Richard Ford’s Canada, which, despite it’s somewhat daunting title, is an amazing tale about fate and loss and acceptance — plus bank robbers. And the book I’ve been obsessed with since January,  and have been exhorting everyone to read, is James Salter’s All That Is — structurally amazing and beautiful written and dangerous and romantic.

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza KlaussmannI think being a writer can change the way you read, if you’re reading for that. But I am still swept up in the books I love and often times have to read them again if I really wanted to peer into the craft.

What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include? 

I had a whole little section on Widow’s Walks in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. You generally see these sort of railed roof terraces on the old Captain’s Houses looking out to sea. I had been brought up to believe that they were built so that Captain’s wives could stand there and look out for the return of their husbands’ ships. (Furthermore, it was related that women whose husbands had been thought to be lost during a whaling expedition would pine up there and eventually haunt the houses.)

It turns out that the walks instead apparently gave easy access to the chimney so that sand could be poured down it in case of fire. I liked the juxtaposition between fantasy and reality, but the passage turned out to be more like a mini-history or Wikipedia than entry, than something suitable for a novel. Thus it was left on the cutting room floor.

In the past I have visited a blog called Daily Routines and it’s all about the schedules of writers and creative people.  What does a typical day look like for you and how do you manage a busy schedule? 

I am obsessed with reading about other writers’ routines: whether they edit by hand or on the computer, if they set a minimum (or some cases maximum) word or time limit. I don’t think I’m alone in this — I think a lot of other writers and people interested in books and writing also seek out and store up these bits of arcane knowledge, as if they are secret key to understanding the writing process. I somehow find them reassuring.

For myself, I have to start work no later than an hour and half after I get up, or I will find some reason to put the whole thing off. Procrastination is a dangerous affliction for a writer. I’ll generally read e-mails and the news first and then get going.

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BOOK CLUB: Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina

bookclubreads_Alex MorrowWelcome to BOOK CLUB, a joint venture between me and Jen from Devourer of Books.  Today we are discussing Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina,  published by Reagan Arthur Books. It’s the final book in our exploration of Alex Morrow and “tartan noir”.

 From The Publisher: It’s the week before Christmas when a lone robber bursts into a busy Glasgow post office carrying an AK-47. An elderly man suddenly hands his young grandson to a stranger and wordlessly helps the gunman fill bags with cash, then carries them to the door. He opens the door and bows his head; the robber fires off the AK-47, tearing the grandfather in two.

DS Alex Morrow arrives on the scene and finds that the alarm system had been disabled before the robbery. Gods and BeastsYet upon investigation, none of the employees can be linked to the gunman. And the grandfather-a life-long campaigner for social justice-is above reproach. As Morrow searches for the killer, she discovers a hidden, sinister political network. Soon it is chillingly clear: no corner of the city is safe, and her involvement will go deeper than she could ever have imagined.

If you plan on participating in today’s BOOK CLUB, please consider subscribing to comments at the bottom of the page, and check back throughout the day as more questions are added to the post.

  • What were your general impressions of the book, and how did your thoughts and opinions evolve as the story unfolded?
  • We’ve now followed Alex over the course of three novels. How did your thoughts about her change over the course of the series? Were your expectations justified? Were there other things you wanted for this character?
  • After reading these novels over the course of the summer what do you think of Mina’s writing and choice of topics? What kind of picture do you get of Scotland, their police force and women in that industry?I think all of us have been interested in her relationship with Danny. Their background and upbringing have led them down different paths, and their relationship has been tenuous at best. What did you think of the latest developments? Were you surprised?
  • Mina and Morrow explore different types of crimes and family dynamics in each novel, which of the stories resonated the most with you? How would you compare Scottish and
  • What’s next for Alex? Is this a series you will continue to read?

12 copies of Gods and Beasts were provided by Reagan Arthur Books in order to facilitate this discussion. Thank you so much!

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The Purchase by Linda Spalding – Book Review

The Purchase by Linda Spalding

The Purchase by Linda Spalding (August 6, Pantheon) Spalding’s vivid portrayal of eighteenth-century Virginia is a searing indictment of the institution of slavery, showing how personal interest and human frailty made complicit participants of the most “innocent” of bystanders. Powerful and disturbing, though with notes of hope throughout, readers won’t be able to help compare their own choices to those of the novel’s flawed but strongly principled characters. —Nicole Bonia, Bloggers Recomend

The Purchase was one of my picks for the August Bloggers Recommend Newsletter, and it was one that I thought a lot about. I’m really picky about the books I choose that go beyond the pale of the typical human experience. Slavery and the holocaust are such heavy topics that I insist on different insights and perspectives before delving into such heaviness. Spalding’s novel offered that opportunity, with it’s unique take of a Quaker man accidentally purchasing a slave, and the ramifications for everyone involved. Spalding used her own family history for the basics of the of the plot, which followed the Quaker family over a few generations. It’s always fascinating to see how the work of a moment can change the path of many lives.

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Out of Twenty: Mary Simses, Author of The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe, Answers Seven Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim  author and they choose their own interview by  picking mary-simses-home-photo which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer. Mary Simses’s novel, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafetells the story of  a Manhattan woman who flees her engagement and pending nuptials to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish. Here is what Mary had to say about reading, writing, and receiving title help from James Patterson.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

I grew up in Connecticut, where my mother’s family has some fairly deep roots (several generations). I’m an only child and we lived in Darien, a suburban town on the Connecticut Coast. When I was young I was always writing short stories and poems and my teachers encouraged me to write – especially my ninth grade English teacher, with whom I’m still in touch.

By the time I started college, I decided I’d better take up a “practical” career, as I didn’t think I could ever make a living writing fiction or poetry. I decided to major in journalism because at least that way I’d still be writing, although doing a very different kind of writing. I spent a couple of years after college working for a small trade magazine in Connecticut (fortunately, an interesting one that covered the field of magazine publishing) and then ended up going back to school to get a law degree. I worked for a law firm and then spent fifteen years working in the legal department of a large corporation in Westchester County, New York.

It was during that time that I realized I had to start writing fiction again. I kept imagining scenes and thinking of dialog and I figured I’d either have to write or I would drive myself crazy not doing it. I enrolled in an evening fiction writing class at Fairfield University in Connecticut. And that was it. I was totally hooked again – but now, as an adult. I wrote “on the side,” whenever I could – late at night, on weekends, traveling, any time I could squeeze it in.

Over the next few years, several of my stories were published in journals and literary magazines. Then my husband, also an attorney, was transferred to South Florida, so we moved there. After that, I had our daughter, Morgan, and I put the writing away for several years, during which time we opened our own law firm. But, once again, I came back to writing fiction and began to work on more short stories. A close friend and author kept telling me I needed to write a novel, and, finally, I took the big leap and wrote what became The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café.

My stories, and my novel, are all relationship-driven. The characters define the stories. Locations are important to me as well, however. I tend to set my stories in small towns and my favorite small towns are those on the New England coast. I like to use fictional towns, so I can create them from the ground up, exactly the way I want them to be. In Blueberry Café, the location is Beacon, Maine, a small coastal town where Ellen, the protagonist, goes to deliver a letter for her recently deceased grandmother who wanted to set something right before she died. I guess small, coastal New England towns and characters dealing with “unfinished business” in their lives are my themes. Those two elements are also in the new book I’m writing.

Can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you through the writing process?

This is hard. My only real routine is probably the lack of one! Actually, that’s not quite true. One thing I find is that I like to write in the same place, at least when I’m home. There is a little “nook” in our bedroom with a banquette against two of the three walls and there are windows in two of the walls, making it a nice, bright spot. I usually sit on the banquette with my laptop on a small laptop table and that’s where I write. We do have a home office but I use that to pay bills, sort mail, work on photographs (I love photography and have been taking pictures since I was a child), and that sort of thing. I don’t write there.

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and CafeI also find that my best schedule (when I can stick to it) is to write in the morning, before I get distracted and the day gets away from me. To do that, I really have to “x” out time on my calendar for myself. Otherwise, it will get filled in with appointments and things I could, at least for the most part, just as easily do in the afternoon. If I’m getting really distracted by being in the house, I just pick up my laptop and go somewhere else to write – preferably somewhere outside, if it’s not too hot.

That said, I don’t always write in the morning and there are periods when I don’t write at all. Then I’ll have several days where I really knock out a ton of pages. It’s also not unusual for me to write until the wee hours of the morning, when I really get going.

I usually have something to drink next to me, such as my one cup of coffee in the morning or a cup of tea. Cinnamon, one of our two cats, is typically hanging around, looking to be petted or threatening to walk on my laptop keys, which he loves to do. (Sometimes he sleeps on the keyboard!) He’s not the best writer, though, so I try to discourage him from coming too close.

What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors? Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?

I just finished reading That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay, a novel I received as an advance reader copy from my publisher. The story involves letters, food, and love – three things that are also critical elements in Blueberry Café – so I was intrigued from the start. It’s a delightful read and I enjoyed every page.

I’m now reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, also published by Little, Brown. It’s an amazing novel and, because of that, it’s hard to put down. So if anyone in my house thinks I’m cooking dinner or anything like that  . . . .Some of my favorite books are: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger ; A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving; The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd; Angle of Repose by Wallace Steigner; The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr; Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson; The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve; The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies; The Salterton Trilogy by Robertson Davies; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; A Room with a View by E.M. Forster; Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

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Giveaway: The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo MoyesI read the UK edition of JoJo Moyes’s Me Before You way back in March 2012, and thought it was just fabulous! It was a lot of fun to see it released here in January to such excitement and acclaim, and to see that everyone loved it just as much as I did. JoJo Moyes has a new book coming out, The Girl You Left Behind.

From the Publisher:

France, 1916:  Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.

Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is—putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.

Whether you have read Me Before You and loved it, or just want the opportunity to  discover one of her lovely novels for yourself, I have a copy to giveaway to a readers with a US address. If you’re interested in receiving the book, please fill out this brief form. I will pick a winner at random on Friday, August 23.

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