Saturday, September 7, 2013

True Crime

I wonder how many books have been written with this very same title, True Crime? I mean, it's an entire genre. But, this one is fiction. Totally.

Now the eye of God and the eye of the news media are frequently mistaken for one another, especially by the news media. But whether or not Frank Beachum was being watched over by the former, one member of the latter had him firmly in her heart and mind.
Andrew Klavan
pg. 6
1st paragraph, Chapter 2
I'll be interested in watching Clint Eastwood's take on this excellent book.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tenth of December

From the title story, excerpted in...

“Writing short stories is very hard work.” That, at any rate, is what George Saunders had to say on the subject some years ago, in an essay about the postmodern master Donald Barthelme, and lest anyone raise a skeptical eyebrow — since by then Saunders had already proved himself to be one of the most gifted, wickedly entertaining story writers around — he continued to wring his hands, revealingly, a few pages later: “The land of the short story,” he fretted, “is a brutal land, a land very similar, in its strictness, to the land of the joke.”
I always enjoy short stories, and George Saunders' are supremely well-written and quirky. I found the opener--Victory Lap--to be poignant, introspective, and realistic. Stories layered into, around, and beneath the tale. I wonder about these kids' futures...

Why was it, she sometimes wondered, that in dreams we can't do the simplest things? Like a crying puppy is standing on some broken glass and you want to pick it up and brush the shards off its pads but you can't because you're balancing a ball on your head.
pg. 26
George Saunders

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Devil's Cave


Bruno Courréges seldom felt happier about the community he served as chief of police than when standing at the rear of the ancient stone church of St. Denis, listening to rehearsels of the town choir. Unlike the formal ceremonies at Mass when the singers dressed in neat white surplices, the choir practiced in their normal dress, usually gathering immediately after work. But Father Sentout's daring decision that the choir should reach beyond its usual repertoire to attempt Bach's St. Matthew's Passion had required some additional rehearsels early in the morning. Farmers stood alongside schoolteachers and accountants, waitresses and shopkeepers. These were people Bruno knew, wearing clothes he recognized, and usually singing hymns that were familiar, perhaps the only memory of his church orphanage that still gave him pleasure.
Martin Walker
This is 6th in the series of Bruno Courrèges, Germandier of St. Denis in the Dordogne department, southwestern France, which corresponds to the ancient county of Périgueux.
This entry in the series is my new favorite, although I've fully enjoyed them all--learning much about the history of the region and of France, the people and culture of the Pèrigueux, and the foods and produce that underwrites the economy and way of life.
Don't miss the unbelievable roast chicken recipe on pgs. 226-229.

Monday, July 22, 2013

San Miguel

About suffering, they were wrong,
The Old Masters; how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone is eating or opening a window
or just walking dully along.
--W.H. Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts

Historical fiction. Extremely well-done. Makes me want to read the historical accounts of the true inhabitants: The Legendary King of San Miguel (Elizabeth Sherman Lester), San Miguel Island: My Childhood Memoir, 1930-1942 (Betsy Lester Roberti) and Mrs. Waters' Diary of Her Life on San Miguel Island (edited by Marla Daily).
Inez Deane
Does life go on? It does though she sank low enough to consider the alternative, even going so far as to take her stepfather's rifle down from its hook and caress the trigger where it shone silver from use, and she spent one dismal fog-haunted afternoon suspended over the ocean on a fragment of rock no wider than the seat of a chair, daring herself to jump. She could hear the crash of the waves, taste the salt spray. The damp penetrated her hair, slicked the rock till it might have been greased....
pg. 199
Great backlist. I'm excited. I love finding an author I love who's beenbwriting for awhile. Keeps me happy m

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hunting Down Amanda

This story begins on a summer's day in Hell.

The day was July thirteenth to be exact. And Hell was a little town called Hunnicut, Massachusetts.

Before it turned into Hell, it was actually kind of a nice little place. A fishing town. Hills of beryl forests above sunlit bays. Trim shingled houses on tree-lined lanes. Restored Main Street with quaint tourist shops and a couple of decent seafood restaurants overlooking the water.
First Paragraphs
Well-written. Takes a bit to get completely drawn into the characters lives. Yet, you do get drawn in and appreciate, then gripped by, the complexities of the story.
Definitely want to read True Crime and his other books. Some written under the nom de plume Keith Peterson.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Sandcastle Girls


From Amazon:
The Sandcastle Girls is a sweeping historical love story steeped in Chris Bohjalian's Armenian heritage.
When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The year is 1915 and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo and travels south into Egypt to join the British army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.

Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents' ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed "The Ottoman Annex," Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura's grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family's history that reveals love, loss - and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.
Author's Note: The centennial of the Armenian genocide is nearing. April 24, 2015, marks the one-hundred-year anniversary of the roundup of the Armenian intellectuals, professionals, editors, and religious leaders in Constantinople, most of whom eventually were executed. It was, arguably, the start of the most nightmarish eight years in Armenian history--though the very worst would occur in the subsequent eighteen months, culminating with the 1916 massacres at Ras-el-Ain and Der-el-Zor.

Our history books in school were so incomplete. Totally mediated and scrubbed clean. Focused on superiority and patriotism. I think the first I heard any mention of these horrific events was just a couple of years ago. But, I've heard a similar story from my Estonian friend. Her father was a seminarian and intellectual who escaped to Germany in the late 1930s and survived, while his colleagues stayed in Tallinn. RvH's father was called on to identify the bodies. Within a few years the family immigrated first to Britain and finally to the Chicago area. There's definitely an Estonian story to tell. And, how many others?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Joy for Beginners

Life came back slowly, Kate realized. It didn't come flooding in with the reassurance that all was well. The light outside was no different; her daughter's body, the strength of her hug, was not necessarily more substantial. The delicate veil Kate placed between herself and the world was not flung away. It clung.
But life is persistent, slipping into your consciousness sideways, catching you with a fleeting moment of color, the unexpected and comforting smell of a neighbor's dinner cooking as you walk on a winter evening, the feeling of warm water running between your fingers as you wash the dishes at night. There is nothing so seductive as reality.
Erica Bauermeister
This is the story of Kate, but really of seven women, gathered together first to support a young mother with newborn twins. Then, life and time draws them closer while unravelling their separate stories and experiences.
I am one of five sisters and because of, or in spite of, that I have always been intriqued by how diverse women connect and are drawn into community. That imperfection labeled friendship. Sometimes unequal, frustrating, inconsistent. Often fleeting and temporal. At best enduring, forgiving, understanding, tolerant, unconditional.
Recently I've been considering how one initiates and builds new and true friendships later in life when we are all less trusting, patient, open.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Where We Belong



I know what they say about secrets. I've heard it all. That they can haunt and govern you. That they can poison relationships and divide families. That in the end, only the truth will set you free. Maybe that's the case for some secrets. But I truly believed I was the exception to such portents, and never once breathed the smallest mention of my nearly two decadelong secret to anyone. Not to my closest friends in my most intoxicated moments or to my boyfriend Peter in our most intimate ones. I didn't even discuss it with my mother, the only person who was there when it all went down, almost as if we took an unspoken vow of silence, willing ourselves to let go, move on. I never forgot, not for a single day, yet I was also convinced that sometimes, the past really was the past.

Where We Belong

Emily Griffin


Sometimes, I crave a well-written, light novel. This one perfectly fit that craving. A well-crafted, contemporary story--told in two time-frames. Not a perfect novel, not a tricky plot. Yet, I liked the characters for the most part, and I was routing for them. An ambiguous ending that pleased me because it didn't make an obvious or trite leap, but still left me hopeful.

That aside, I can't stop myself from commenting on how many novels I've read recently that skip back and forth between perspectives, between eras, between timeframes--sometime four or more timeframes. Enough already! It's O.K. to tell a story sequentially, chronologically. Two timeframes, three perspectives should be enough for any book. Really.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gone Girl

Everything has already been said that needs saying, I'm aware, about Gillian Flynn's bestselling Gone Girl. I'd read it hot off the press, but CA and I needed an audio book for our return drive from the beach. I discovered that you can get bargain prices on audio books through Amazon/Audible, if you've previously purchased the e-book. Therefore, soon CA was hooked into the story and just enough time passed
since my reading it, that I could enjoy a retelling.
These words got to me. The audible words stopped me in my tracks. Then when I referenced back to the ebook I read many months ago, I found I'd previously highlighted these same words.
For several years, I had been bored. Not a whining, restless child's boredom (although I was not above that) but a dense, blanketing malaise. It seemed to me that there was nothing new to be discovered ever again. Our society was utterly, ruinously derivative (although the word derivative as a criticism is itself derivative). We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at the wonders of the world dull-eyed, underwhelmed. The Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building. Jungle animals on attack, giant icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can't recall an amazing thing I've seen firsthand that I didn't immediately reference to a movie or a TV show. A f___ing commercial. You know the awful singsong of the blasé: Seeeen it. I've literally seen it all. And the worst thing, the thing that makes me want to blow my brains out, is: The secondhand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener. The camera angle and the soundtrack manipulate my emotions in a way reality can't anymore. I don't know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the Internet. If we are betrayed, we know the words to say; when a loved-one dies, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart-ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script.

It's a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.
And if all of us are playacting, there can be no such thing as a soulmate, because we don't have genuine souls. It had gotten to the point where it seemed like nothing matters, because I am not a real person and neither is anyone else.

I would have done anything to feel real again.
Nick Dunne's words
One Day Gone

Tears. I felt actual tears forming as I copied this section. Such despair and raw poignancy. There's truth here, but also a hopelessness that isn't truth.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mary and O'Neil

Arthur in darkness---drifting---the planet spinning toward dawn; he awakens in gray November daybreak to the sounds of running water and a great arm brushing the side of his house. The wind, he thinks, the wind; the end of autumn, the last of the leaves pulled away. The running water, he understands, was never real. He lies in the dark of the bedroom he shares with his wife, waiting for the dream to fade---a dream which, together, they sail over a cliff into blackness. What else? A sense of water below, a lake or stream, miriam's hand in his, of everything loosed from the earth; a feeling like accomplishment, shapes fitting together with mathematical precision, all the equations of the heavens ringing. A dream of final happiness, in which they, Arthur and Miriam, together, at the last, die.
Opening paragraph, pg. 1
This first paragraph can give the impression that this is a dour, introspective story. But, this is not a morbid novel--series of linked chronological short stories--even though the subject matter is often poignant, sad, thoughtful. Here's another sampling:
Mary and O'Neil: They were like any couple...
And yet, there was something uncertain about them it was hard to say why. Their love was electric and sensual---O'Neil, for instance, sometimes placed his nose against Mary's cheek, simply to smell her skin... And their lovemaking surprised them with its ease. So many years of nervousness; why had no one told them that sex was meant to be funny, and that they could say the things they wanted to and ask for what they liked? They were happy, it was true; they had reached a point of happiness in their lives, a place of rest after a journey of some difficulty, and they frequently marveled at this fact: how, of all the people in the world, and all the lives they might have led, they had somehow found this one together.
pgs. 167-168
As usual, The New York Times says it best.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Historian

A Note to the Reader
The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper. Recently, however, a shock of sorts has prompted me to look back over the most troubling episodes of my life and of the lives of the several people I loved best. This is the story of how as a girl of sixteen I went in search of my father and his past, and of how he went in search of his beloved mentor and his mentor's own history, and of how we all found ourselves on one of the darkest pathways into history. It is the story of who survived that search and who did not, and why. As a historian, I have learned that, in fact, not eveyone who reaches back into history can survive it. And it is not only reaching back that endangers us; sometimes history itself reaches inexorably forward for us with its shadowy claw.
She had me from paragraph #1! Inexorably... Love the word.
adverb relentlessly, inevitably, irresistibly, remorselessly, implacably, unrelentingly Spending on health is growing inexorably. Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002

While reading and loving The Swan Thieves, I saw Elizabeth Kostova's earlier book--The Historian--had received international attention, so I checked out the reviews. And then, shied away because I don't enjoy fantasy and keep away from occult.

"Breathtakingly suspenseful and beautifully written, The Historian is the story of a young woman plunged into a labyrinth where the secrets of her family's past connect to an inconceivable evil: the dark fifteenth-century reign of Vlad the Impaler and a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive through the ages. The search for the truth becomes an adventure of monumental proportions, taking us from monasteries and dusty libraries to the capitals of Eastern Europe - in a feat of storytelling so rich, so hypnotic, so exciting that it has enthralled readers around the world."

"Never was a ghost story so casually erudite, nor a historical travelogue such gripping entertainment."

---New York Magazine

Skipping this book would have been such a great loss. I learned so much middle-eastern European / North African / Mediterranean history, and am fascinated to read and research more. We've traveled some in Hungary, France, The Carpathians... And, one tends to latch onto and be mesmerized by the somewhat familiar.

I figured out that Svaty Jur, Slovakia--near our son's family's home until recently-- is named for the very same St. George (Svety Georgi) who plays a pivotal role in the searches involved. It's the old Six Degrees (or less) of Separation.