Thursday, October 30, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Conditioning

Here's this week's Booking Through Thursday question:

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

Despite the name of this blog, I'm not a literal spine breaker. Or a dog-earer. I want my books to look exactly the same after I read them. I'm definitely a "pristine condition" gal.

I think it's actually one reason why I prefer hardcovers to paperbacks, since the spine is much less evident with a book jacket. It bothers me how a paperback looks, especially a mass market (smaller) version, after it's read, especially if it's been "well read." And, it's why I prefer brand-new books...even from the library, if at all possible.

This is a touch off-topic...but, I also think that how I feel about the physical properties of a book is what will keep me from ever owning anything like a Kindle. Part of the reading experience for me is feeling the book in my hands.

What about you?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Piano Teacher

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Piano Teacher
By Janice Y. K. Lee
Publication Date: January 13

From Publishers Weekly:

Lee delivers a standout debut dealing with the rigors of love and survival during a time of war, and the consequences of choices made under duress. Claire Pendleton, newly married and arrived in Hong Kong in 1952, finds work giving piano lessons to the daughter of Melody and Victor Chen, a wealthy Chinese couple. While the girl is less than interested in music, the Chens' flinty British expat driver, Will Truesdale, is certainly interested in Claire, and vice versa. Their fast-blossoming affair is juxtaposed against a plot line beginning in 1941 when Will gets swept up by the beautiful and tempestuous Trudy Liang, and then follows through his life during the Japanese occupation. As Claire and Will's affair becomes common knowledge, so do the specifics of Will's murky past, Trudy's motivations and Victor's role in past events.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Review: Testimony

"Sometimes Mike wished he had just slipped the offensive tape into a pot of boiling water, or sent it out with the trash in a white plastic drawstring bag, or spooled it out with a pencil and wadded it into a big mess."

In Testimony, best-selling author Anita Shreve examines how a single event can have a multitude of consequences.

On one fateful night, in a dorm room of a prestigious Vermont boarding school, a videotape is made...a tape showing three upperclassmen, prominent basketball stars, and one freshman girl performing a variety of sexual acts, all clearly under the influence. The incident triggers a series of questions. Why would the school's highest stars put themselves in this position? Furthermore, why was it taped? Was the girl a victim or an active and willing participant?

The tape ends up in the possession of the school's headmaster, Mike Bordwin, and his decisions with what to do with it, how to handle the situation, and who, and what, to protect have long-lasting repercussions.

Fast forward to nearly two years after the scandal that ripped apart a town, a school, and a host of families, and the wounds are re-opened when a graduate student from the University of Vermont contacts everyone involved for her study of alcohol and male behaviors in secondary schools.

The story is told through her interviews, ranging from the most marginal to the very students on the tape. This particular approach could have been confusing, given the vast number of perspectives, but it instead makes for a well-rounded telling of the tale, with each person adding details to construct the complete story. One narrator alone could not have told this story.

Along the way, it is revealed exactly how the boys ended up in the room with the girl, the events that triggered the tragic episode and the fallout that came as a result.

Shreve does a masterful job at drawing out the story, releasing details piece by piece, building intrigue as she outlines what led up to that night and its painful aftermath.

I've read everything Shreve has written, and I'm a huge fan. Her latest does not disappoint.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Women

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Women
By T.C. Boyle
Publication Date: February 10

From Amazon:

"Having brought to life eccentric cereal king John Harvey Kellogg in The Road to Wellville and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in The Inner Circle, T.C. Boyle now turns his fictional sights on an even more colorful and outlandish character: Frank Lloyd Wright. Boyle’s account of Wright’s life, as told through the experiences of the four women who loved him, blazes with his trademark wit and invention."

Having adored Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, I can't decide if this will further the intrigue or be overkill...regardless, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it to see. Given the success of Horan's book, comparisons will inevitably be made, and it will be interesting to read the commentary once it's released. This certainly has a lot to live up to, but I'm hoping it's just as compelling.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Review: Goldengrove

On an unseasonably warm Sunday in May, 13-year-old Nico watched her older sister slip from their rowboat, in the lake behind their home, into the water for a swim...and never come back up. Seventeen-year-old Margaret was beautiful, prosaic, mystical, and musically gifted, and her drowning forces Nico to reconstruct her world without her lifelong compass.

Goldengrove, authored by Francine Prose, focuses on the summer after Margaret's death, and what the family must endure to survive their grief. Nico's mother turns to the piano and prescription medication; her father retreats to the back of his bookstore to finish his book.

Nico is on her own, and her list of what she can't do without Margaret (among them, listening to music, watching old movies, going near the lake) grows until it narrows her world to a sliver. When Margaret's boyfriend, Aaron, proposes that the two lean on each other, it seems an ideal way for Nico to re-enter life by facing everything on her list head on.

As the relationship develops, though, the lines inevitably begin to blur:

"I had forgotten what...was me and what was Margaret. It had been so much easier when she was alive and I could compare us, side by side, and measure the distance between us."

This was a heart-breaking and compelling read, painfully looking at young grief and the maturity forced on a teenager in the wake of an accident. You really pull for this girl, rooting for her to make good decisions, come back to herself, and emerge whole on the other side.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: What's Sitting on Your Shelf?

From this week's Booking Through Thursday:

Okay–here was an interesting article by Christopher Schoppa in the Washington Post.

"Avid readers know all too well how easy it is to acquire books — it’s the letting go that’s the difficult part. … During the past 20 years, in which books have played a significant role in both my personal and professional lives, I’ve certainly had my fair share of them (and some might say several others’ shares) in my library. Many were read and saved for posterity, others eventually, but still reluctantly, sent back out into the world.

But there is also a category of titles that I’ve clung to for years, as they survived numerous purges, frequent library donations and countless changes of residence. I’ve yet to read them, but am absolutely certain I will. And should. When, I’m not sure, as I’m constantly distracted by the recent, just published and soon to be published works."

So, the question is his: “What tomes are waiting patiently on your shelves?"

Great article...I can completely relate to this question, having dutifully carried several titles with me from city to city, ever optimistic that they will, indeed, someday be read. But, on reflection, as a lot, they're completely random choices, making me wonder a) why I bought them and b) why I'm hanging on to them.

Here are three of mine:

What I Lived For by Joyce Carol Oates

Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

Wobegon Boy by Garrison Keiller

These had to have all been bargain buys over the years, books I didn't really care about to begin with. Usually when I buy a book, it's something I have really been waiting on, and it doesn't last long before it's read.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Kissing Games of the World

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Kissing Games of the World
By Sandi Kahn Shelton
Publication Date: November 4

From Publishers Weekly:

"Journalist Shelton’s poignant third novel elevates the oft-told stories of opposites attracting and sons struggling against their fathers. An absolute treat, Shelton’s work rarely falters and is filled with realistic twists, complex characters, and a moving conclusion."

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Review: One Fifth Avenue

Step inside the doors of One Fifth Avenue, a grand, historic apartment building in Manhattan that houses some of the city's most prominent women...a rising socialite, a semi-retired gossip columnist, a television actress, and an Internet executive turned blogger.

And don't forget the art buff who serves as a concierge of sorts to the upper class, a beyond-his-prime script writer taken with his young assistant, a novelist on the verge of his big breakthrough, and an entrepreneur poised to hold the city in the palm of his hands.

In her latest novel, Candace Bushnell peers into the lives of New York high society and reveals what's hiding behind the doors of this venerable establishment.

All of the characters experience the drama that comes with money and fame...and a place in one of the most exclusive residences in the city.

I have to admit...after Sex in the City, I didn't make it through Four Blondes, Trading Up, or Lipstick Jungle. I had thought them too thin, but it could have been my mindset at the time.

But, that said, I loved One Fifth Avenue. It felt like a guilty pleasure, and I absorbed every mention of the city and its particular quirks and social structure.

It's an insider's glimpse into the most elite element of NYC, and yet, unlike some others before it, it didn't have a forced or over-the-top feel to it, like it was trying too hard. It was fresh and real and scandalous and delicious.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Book Meme

From BTT: I’ve seen this series of questions floating around the ‘net the last few days, and thought it looked like a good one for us!

What was the last book you bought?
Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons. Y'all know me, I'm a library girl, except for my very favorite authors.

Name a book you have read MORE than once.
I'm not a fan of re-reading, so, next...

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
Honestly, The Bible.

How do you choose a book? (eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews)
I choose books by: 1) author, 2) reviews, 3) recommendations...but sometimes the cover helps, too. I'm usually not browsing, though, so a cover swaying me happens rarely.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Easy...fiction. I can get into a good food-related memoir every now and then, but that's about it. I have enough reality...I love where a good novel can take you.

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
It is a cop-out to say both? If you just have one, it doesn't always make up for the lack of the other.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)
I can't pinpoint my "most" loved character...I love it when writers get Southern women right. Those make my favorite characters, hands down.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
I have these on my nightstand:

The 19th Wife

The English Major
The Road Home
The Shack

Suggestions on where to start?

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
I just finished One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell last night. (Review up tomorrow.)

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
Oh yeah...if a book isn't going well, I have no problem putting it down and moving on.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
By Tiffany Baker
Release Date: January 8

From Publishers Weekly:

"Baker's bangup debut mixes the exuberant eccentricities of John Irving's Garp, Anne Tyler's relationship savvy and the plangent voice of Margaret Atwood. In an upstate New York backwater, Truly, massive from birth, has a bleak existence with her depressed father and her china-doll–like sister, Serena Jane. Truly grows at an astonishing rate—her girth the result of a pituitary gland problem. It's got all the earmarks of a hit—infectious and lovable narrator, a dash of magic, an impressive sweep and a heartrending but not treacly family drama."

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: This One Is Mine

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

This One Is Mine
By Maria Semple
Publication Date: December 4

From Amazon:

Violet Parry is living the quintessential life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills with David, her rock-and-roll manager husband, and her darling toddler, Dot. She has the perfect life--except that she's deeply unhappy. This is a compassionate and wickedly funny satire about our need for more--and the often disastrous choices we make in the name of happiness.

This seems a little frothy on the surface, but everything I have read points to a smarter novel, including this review from Publishers Weekly:

"Semple’s takes are tack sharp as her delightful cast is driven comically and tragically ever deeper into a culture of artifice. Semple obviously knows her turf, and she does an exquisite job of stomping all over it."

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?