Shiny and New: Furious Cool, Empty Mansions, Men We Reaped, and Quiet Dell

I’m not sure whether I will be braving the crowds to do any shopping this weekend. I love having the extra time to read, eat and spend some quality time with my family. Speaking of which, there are a few books that I’ve got my eye on.  The publisher descriptions are included below but have been shortened (considerably in some cases) for possible spoilers, and in the interest of brevity. Book covers and titles will take you to full information.

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World that Made Him by David Henry Furious Cooland Joe Henry  Richard Pryor was arguably the single most influential performer of the second half of the twentieth century, and certainly he was the most successful black actor/comedian ever. Controversial and somewhat enigmatic in his lifetime, Pryor’s performances opened up a new world of possibilities, merging fantasy with angry reality in a way that wasn’t just new—it was heretofore unthinkable. His childhood in Peoria, Illinois, was spent just trying to survive. Yet the culture into which Richard Pryor was born—his mother was a prostitute; his grandmother ran the whorehouse—helped him evolve into one of the most  innovative and outspoken performers ever, a man who attracted admiration and anger in equal parts.

Empty Mansions by Bill DedmanEmpty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune  by Bill Dedman  Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the nineteenth century with a twenty-first-century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. Though she owned palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, why had she lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health? Dedman has collaborated with Huguette Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have frequent conversations with her. Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five youngMen We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward men in her life—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why? Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue higher education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity.

Quiet Dell CoverQuiet Dell by Jane Ann Phillips In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, mother of three, is lonely and despairing, pressed for money after the sudden death of her husband. She begins to receive seductive letters from a chivalrous, elegant man named Harry Powers, who promises to cherish and protect her, ultimately to marry her and to care for her and her children. Weeks later, all four Eichers are dead. Emily Thornhill, one of the few women journalists in the Chicago press, becomes deeply invested in understanding what happened to this beautiful family, particularly to the youngest child, Annabel, an enchanting girl with a precocious imagination and sense of magic. Bold and intrepid, Emily allies herself with a banker who is wracked by guilt for not saving Asta. Emily goes to West Virginia to cover the murder trial and to investigate the story herself, accompanied by a charming and unconventional photographer who is equally drawn to the case. Driven by secrets of their own, the heroic characters in this magnificent tale will stop at nothing to ensure that Powers is convicted.

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Some October New Releases

There are so many new books out all the time, but these have particularly caught my eye. The publisher descriptions are included below, but have been shortened (considerably in some cases) for possible spoilers, and in the interest of brevity. Book covers and titles will take you to full information.

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell (October 3, Little, Brown and Company) Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David’s victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn’t have won. Or should he have? In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.

The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson (October 1, Grove Press) – Set in seventeenth-century England during the reign of James I-the The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Wintersonmonarch who wrote his own book on witchcraft-The Daylight Gate is best-selling writer Jeanette Winterson’s re-creation of a dark history full of complicated morality, sex, and tragic plays for power. This is a world where to be Catholic is a treasonable offense. A world where England’s king vows to rid his country of “witchery popery popery witchery” and condemns the High Mass and Black Mass as heresies punishable by torture, hanging, and burning. Winterson’s literary suspense tale takes us deep into a brutal period of English history, centered on the notorious 1612 Pendle witch trials-an infection of paranoia that crossed the ocean with the Pilgrims and set the scene for the Salem witch hunt.

Mrs. Poe by Lynn CullenMrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen (October 1, Gallery Books) – It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve. She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married. As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late…

The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane (October 1, Faber & Faber) – Ruth is widowed, her sons are grown, and she lives in an isolated beach houseThe Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane outside of town. Her routines are few and small. One day a stranger arrives at her door, looking as if she has been blown in from the sea. This woman—Frida—claims to be a care worker sent by the government. Ruth lets her in. Now that Frida is in her house, is Ruth right to fear the tiger she hears on the prowl at night, far from its jungle habitat? Why do memories of childhood in Fiji press upon her with increasing urgency? How far can she trust this mysterious woman, Frida, who seems to carry with her own troubled past? And how far can Ruth trust herself?

The October List by Jeffery DeaverThe October List by Jeffery Deaver (October 1, Grand Central) – Gabriela waits desperately for news of her abducted daughter. At last, the door opens. But it’s not the negotiators. It’s not the FBI. It’s the kidnapper. And he has a gun. How did it come to this? Two days ago, Gabriela’s life was normal. Then, out of the blue, she gets word that her six-year-old daughter has been taken. She’s given an ultimatum: pay half a million dollars and find a mysterious document known as the “October List” within 30 hours, or she’ll never see her child again. A mind-bending novel with twists and turns that unfold from its dramatic climax back to its surprising beginning, The October List is Jeffery Deaver at his masterful, inventive best.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (October 1 , Viking Adult) – Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel The Signature of all Things by Elizabeth Gilbertfollows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

The Spymistress by Jennifer ChiaveriniThe Spy Mistress by Jennifer Chiaverini (October 1, Dutton Adult) – Born to slave-holding aristocracy in Richmond, Virginia, and educated by Northern Quakers, Elizabeth Van Lew was a paradox of her time. Van Lew’s skills in gathering military intelligence were unparalleled. She helped to construct the Richmond Underground and orchestrated escapes from the infamous Confederate Libby Prison under the guise of humanitarian aid. Her spy ring’s reach was vast, from clerks in the Confederate War and Navy Departments to the very home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In Chiaverini’s riveting tale of high-stakes espionage, a great heroine of the Civil War finally gets her due.

The Tilted World by Tom Frankling and Beth Ann Fennelly (October 1, William Morrow) Set against the backdrop of the historic flooding of The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Fennellythe Mississippi River, The Tilted World is an extraordinary tale of murder and moonshine, sandbagging and saboteurs, and a man and a woman who find unexpected love. The year is 1927. As rains swell the Mississippi, the mighty river threatens to burst its banks and engulf everything in its path, including federal revenue agent Ted Ingersoll and his partner, Ham Johnson. Arriving in the tiny hamlet of Hobnob, Mississippi, to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents who’d been on the trail of a local bootlegger, they are astonished to find a baby boy abandoned in the middle of a crime scene. Ingersoll, an orphan raised by nuns, is determined to find the infant a home, and his search leads him to Dixie Clay Holliver. When Ingersoll learns that a saboteur might be among them, planning a catastrophe along the river that would wreak havoc in Hobnob, he knows that he and Dixie Clay will face challenges and choices that they will be fortunate to survive.

I plan on picking up a few of these over the coming weeks. Anything you’re planning to read?

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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In Paperback: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa MeyerSquare Fish, January 3, 2013

Originally Reviewed: Cinder by Marissa Meyer (January 26, 2012)

New Cover or Old? Cinder’s sexy metal leg graces the cover again. Love the red slipper!

What I Thought Then: Cinder is a quick and engaging read that mixes the Cinderella fairytale with a future dystopian world filled with the threat of poverty, disease, and alien invasion.

Now, On Further Reflection: This is the first book of a quartet, and sometimes interest can wane in the time it takes for the next book to come out. That’s not the case here. I am looking forward to seeing what happens with Cinder, and the introduction of new character, Scarlet, for whom the book is named.

Book Club Pick? I think one of the most interesting things to explore here is the way the author chooses to update this very old story. Which elements stay the same? And which ideas and fears have morphed into something new. I would also be curious to see what changes other readers would have made, and if they agree with Meyer’s choices.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 In Paperback: The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

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All The Books: Fall 2012 (1)

I want to read all the books. This never happens. It’s one of the few times I am comfortable with using the word never. Here are a five of the many I am bummed to have not read…yet.

Adam McComber’s The White Forest got decidedly mixed reviews from bloggers whose opinions I trust, but still this is one that I want to try for myself at some point. It’s historical and supposedly has a Gothic element. Two things I really, really like.

Right, so we know that I don’t care much for contemporary romance, but Hester Browne’s The Runaway Princess promises a glimpse into the lives of non-British royalty, and so I’m curious.

With Thomas Norman DeWolf & Sharon Morgan’s book titled, Gather At the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade , the name says it all. So curious as to what they talked about, and the labels they chose to apply to themselves.


I just finished and reviewed another book where Napoleon is  a marginally featured in the plot, In Jo Graham’s The General’s Mistress, he seems to have a bigger role here, with Robespierre added in for good measure.

Other Press consistently puts out great books. The latest on my radar is Peter Hoeg’s The Elephant Keeper’s Children, a novel telling the story of three children who have eccentric parents, one a vicar and the other an artisan. When their parents go missing, the children fear that it is because of their aggressive recruiting tactics to boost church attendance. Oh, snap.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 The Emperors Conspiracy by Michelle Diener   Book Review

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In Paperback: The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney Paberback Cover

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney Paberback Cover

Berkley Trade, December 4, 2012

Originally Reviewed: The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney (February 29, 2012)

New Cover or Old? I dig the spiffy red cover with the flower.

What I Thought Then: Penney has a lovely and thorough writing style that is delightful to see in a mystery. I think I was overwhelmed by some of the detail and then underwhelmed by the quick wrap-up.

Now, On Further Reflection: I’m struck the amount of loneliness experienced by almost all the characters, from the detective to the victim and perpetrator of the crime. I still think about the young narrator and his attempts to fit in when his family is so different.

Book Club Pick? There are quite a few twists and turns in this one, so it is fun to discuss who figured out what when, and if any of it even makes sense. Themes of loneliness, relationships and fidelity , and the good of the individual versus the group are prominent throughout. The novel heavily features the Romany/Gypsy lifestyle and renders a fascinating portrait of a culture usually shrouded in mystery.

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Round Up- January 1- 14, 2012

Happy New Year Everyone! Boy am I getting a late start this year.


There are almost always too many books to list when I look at what’s coming out from week to week. I managed to narrow it down- just a little bit- to the ones that caught my eye. I have the starred (*) ones on my shelf and I have even read the double starred ones (**).


Parnormal/ Dystopian



Literary Fiction

Historical Fiction


Classics Related

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“Lola, California” by Edie Meidav

I haven’t run across many books dealing with death row and the death penalty. Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song comes to mind, and more recently, Naseem Rahka’s The Crying Tree (which Meghan reviewed a few weeks ago). In Edie Meidav’s Lola, California, a daughter is estranged from her father who is currently on death row and awaiting execution in ten days. A friend, from whom she has been estranged, finds her and attempts reuniting her with her father before his execution.

I like a novel that sets readers up with mysteries about its characters and Lola, California does that right away. It is easy to tell that the friends, Lana and Rose are very close, and both seem to have deep admiration for Lana’s father Vic Mahler, a writer of some note. I started to wonder right away what would have caused such a rift between the three of them that would send them so fully away from each other and into radically different lives.

Edie Meidav gives a flavor of the themes running through the novel in her playlist for the work featured at Largehearted Boy. There are some great songs listed there! She also played along and answered some of the twenty questions that I love to pose to authors. You’ll see that here later this month.

 Read an excerpt of Lola, California, by Edie Meidav at The Outlet.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011

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On The Shelves: New Releases June 1-15, 2011

  • The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic by Dan Ariely
  • What Alice Forgot by Lianne Moriarty
  • The Ridge by Michael Kortya – The other day at book club I had a debate with a friend about which Koryta supernatural book we liked best and why. The Cypress House has my heart, but The Ridge comes pretty close.
  • Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington – I have an interview coming up soon with Laura Harrington, so watch for it, but consider picking up the book as well. The dated entries which comprise the book make for a poignant read about what happens to a family, and particularly a teenaged  girl, when dad goes off to war.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Out Of Twenty: Ann Aguirre, Author of Enclave, Answers Six Questions

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On The Shelves: New Book Releases – May 2011

Can we say better late than never? May got away from me, but I had a few things on my shelves that are not to be missed, so I wanted to still share them with you.

How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche
Half A Life by Darin Strauss – Picked this one up at the Random House Tea during BEA week.
Prophecy by S.J. Parris
Faith by Jennifer Haigh – I haven’t read any of Jennifer Haigh’s previous novels, but Gayle really enjoys her books, and I know that we have similar taste in literary fiction so I am ready to read this. My book club is also discussing it in October.

  • The White Devil by Justin Evans – Jen and I will be chatting with the author for our What’s Old Is New podcast later this week. I loved it! Very smart literary thriller/ghost story. Totally creepy and haunting.
  • The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson – Very fun book. Informative and fascinating, it covers the criteria for psychopaths while pointing out the pitfalls of making such a diagnosis.
  • Dreams of Joy by Lisa See – Picked this up at the Random House Tea during the week of BEA where Lisa See signed it for me.
  • Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson – This was almost pick for BOOK CLUB. I think length might have been the determining factor in going with something else, but I have heard nothing but good things about it and I got a copy signed by the author at BEA. And a TSFA tote bag!

Vlad: The Last Confession – The Epic Novel of the Real Dracula by C.C. Humphries – The author chatted about his book on an episode of What’s Old Is New. Fascinating background on the real Dracula, Vlad Tepes. I also learned how to say his name on that show.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Out Of Twenty: Ann Aguirre, Author of Enclave, Answers Six Questions

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On The Shelves: New Book Releases- April 17 – April 30, 2011

On The Shelf

Having already read Marcia Clark‘s Guilt By Association (Mulholland Books), I can tell you that enjoyed it quite a bit. I love the characters and I want to see them back. It will be interesting to see how well Clark’s book does, being that she is somewhat of a celebrity author. Notice how her name is the biggest thing on the cover. It’s just as much a selling point as anything else, even though I think a fair number of people might not be willing to give her a shot because of that same name! Daniel Woodrell’s The Bayou Trilogy: is one that I was SO excited to get my hands on because I thought he did such a fantastic job with Winter’s Bone. I have started in on this one and I have to say that he has quite a talent for inhabiting a world and its characters. From what I have read, his work doesn’t suffer from lack of authenticity.

Rounding out the books on my shelf are three that I haven’t read but will be getting to shortly. 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson appealed to me since it deals with a family that is reunited after suffering separately during World War II. However, their reunion is threatened by secrets that have developed between them in the intervening years. Nosy me wants to know what those secrets are! I have heard whispers from friends that The Violets of March by Sarah Jio is a stellar read. It definitely seems to have all the elements of a good story. A woman whose had the perfect life awakes to the fact that it is all falling apart. Luckily she has a friend who lends her a cottage by the sea. She goes there to take a moment to heal and while she’s at it, finds an old diary that offers perspective for her own circumstances.

Jen (Devourer of Books) and I will be chatting with Arthur Phillips on an upcoming episode of our classic themed podcast What’s Old Is New. Phillips’s book The Tragedy of Arthur explores what happens to an already dysfunctional family when they uncover a lost play of Shakespeare and work together in an attempt to stage it, though it could be an elaborate hoax by Arthur’s con man dad. I am intrigued.


As usual, the wishlist far outnumbers what I have on my shelves.


1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Out of Twenty: Erin Blakemore, Author of The Heroines Bookshelf, Answers Nine Questions

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