Review: The Blue Notebook


Over the next few months I’m sure there will be a lot of talk about The Blue Notebook. A haunting must read, beautifully written.

Dr. James Levine is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, a world renowned scientist, doctor, and researcher. He several outstanding articles published focusing on exercise and obesity.

Below is an excerpt from the first page of the novel, a letter from the publisher:

It all began, Jim Levine told me, when, as part of his research for the Mayo Clinic, he was interviewing homeless kids on a famous street of prostitution in Mumbai… a young woman writing a notebook outside of her cage caught his attention, and he interviewed her at length. The powerful image of a young prostitute engaged in the act of writing haunted him.
Last week I watched Slumdog Millionaire and was able to visualize the living conditions Batuk is endures in the novel. This is the story of a fifteen year old girl whose father sells her into sexually slavery at the young age of nine. At the story progresses, we read memories of her short life at home before being sold into prostitution. It’s hard to turn the pages as you read Batuk’s tell her story of making sweet-cake and living in a nest.

This story is so well written and is haunting to the core. You can read this book in one sitting, it's not filled with crude details (like a few other books I have read) - Read it!

This review posted on BN.COM is an amazing summary of the book:

It is obvious that she is a bright, funny and imaginative child who if she had been allowed, would have had a very different trajectory than the one we find her inhabiting at the start of the story. But for reasons best known to her parents, they sell her off to a life that is unfathomably cruel and brutal. She is initiated into her new status after being raped by one of the "uncles" who wins the bidding war on her virginity. From here on, she is taken to a brothel where she sleeps with a minimum of ten men a day. In this life of abuse, she has one close friend, Puneet, a boy who is considered a favorite of the madam as the customers can't seem to get enough of him. Batuk takes up writing in her notebook as a way to escape the life that she is forced to inhabit. She is an astute observer of her life and the situations around her. She also surprisingly manages to retain her sense of humor and display a resilience that is hard to fathom. Words are the only outlet from the tragedy and unending violence of her life and they are her friends when all else fails.

I will warn that this book will definitely be very hard to take for most people. None of the brutalities that Batuk suffers are glossed over but instead they are relayed in specific and excruciating detail. It is very hard to imagine this kind of treatment being meted out to anyone but worse still to a child. The idea for this book was conceived of when the author, Dr. James Levin, was in India doing research and happened upon a girl in a brothel who was writing in a book. He spoke to her about her experiences and that encounter inspired this work. His writing is stunning in part because of the subject matter but also because he is a first time writer who has managed to produce an amazing story. A poetic and poignant tale that shines a light on what is a sad reality for many children.
BWAV rating of this book: 5 stars
Type: Fiction, 224 pages, Hardcover

Synopsis:A haunting yet astonishingly hopeful story of a young Indian prostitute who uses writing and imagination to transcend her reality.

An unforgettable, deeply affecting tribute to the powers of imagination and the resilience of childhood, The Blue Notebook tells the story of Batuk, a precocious 15-year-old girl from rural India who was sold into sexual slavery by her father when she was nine. As she navigates the grim realities of the Common Street—a street of prostitution in Mumbai where children are kept in cages as they wait for customers to pay for sex—Batuk manages to put pen to paper, recording her private thoughts and stories in a diary. The novel is powerfully told in Batuk’s voice, through the words she writes in her journal, where she finds hope and beauty in the bleakest circumstances.

Beautifully crafted and deeply human, The Blue Notebook explores how people, in the most difficult of situations, can use storytelling to make sense of and give meaning to their lives. All of the U.S. proceeds from this novel will be donated to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children (http://www.icmec.org).

MMBC 3: The Life Room - discussion begins today!


Today we start our discussion of ‘The Life Room’.

Click here to view our discussion.

The Life Room: Author answers our questions


Jill Bialosky, author of The Life Room, answers our questions in preparation for tomorrow’s online book discussion.

Click here to read her answers to our questions

Click here to read my review of the book (along with a short author Q&A)

We should have a good conversation this month - there is a lot to discuss!

Review: The Local News


MMBC May Selection (discussion begins May 20)
The Local News is the debut for Miriam Gershow. It has been called “deftly heartbreaking” with “urgency and heft” by The New York Times, as well as “an accomplished debut” (Publisher’s Weekly) with a “disarmingly unsentimental narrative voice,” (Kirkus Reviews).


When you see a missing person story on the news, have you ever stopped and REALLY thought how the siblings are handling the situation? The Local News is Lydia’s story and her brother is missing.

This story made me feel slightly uncomfortable – Lydia’s story is heartbreaking. I’m sure the author intended for me to feel this way.

When Danny’s goes missing, the family is paralyzed to the point where the Pasternak’s daughter feels misplaced and is longing for love and acceptance. We follow Lydia through flashbacks and memories telling stories of her sudden step up the popularity ladder, a teen’s view of private investigators, her parents and more.

The story ends with a flash forward of 10 years, and we get to see how the family and town have survived this tragedy.
Author Q&A
Tell us a little about yourself (biography): I grew up in Michigan, spending most of my childhood in a suburb not unlike Fairfield in The Local News. In 1994, I got on an Amtrak train and checked out the west coast, moving to Oregon shortly after. I've lived here ever since - 6 years in Portland, the rest in Eugene, where I still live now, except I've added a husband and an extremely spoiled cat to my household. For my day job, I'm an instructor at the University of Oregon.

Do you write daily? When I'm working on a project, yes. The nice thing about a day job at a university, is that my teaching schedule is only two or three days a week, and even on those days, I can usually squeeze some time in before or between classes. Between projects I tend to take a stretch of time off, up to several months.

Are you working on a new book or have an idea for one? I am, but I'm superstitious about talking about projects too early. So I'll just say it's very different in tone and style from The Local News, though I once again - and not intentionally - find myself back in the realm of sibling relationships.

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)? I think anything that helps people to read books or helps make books more popular and accessible is excellent. I know people who swear by their Kindle, and I have several friends who've bought my book via Kindle. Great. Personally, I don't think I'll ever buy one, though. I love the sensory experience of holding the book and turning the pages. I can't see easily giving that up.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? The one tip is to focus on the writing, itself, as much as possible, without getting too preoccupied about things like getting published or finding an agent. The business end of things is daunting and distracting. I kept myself out of it for as long as possible, and just kept my nose to the proverbial grindstone. Give yourself time to really figure out how to write and how to write well - which can be a long and slow and scary process with plenty of setbacks - before turning your attention to the publishing industry. And while you're busy with the writing, find a few trusted readers who understand what you're trying to do, and who can both cheerlead and be healthily critical of your work. (I suppose that's technically two tips).

What are you reading now? A short book of essays by Larry McMurtry about Texas and reading and family and cowboy myths. It's called "Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen." It was a loan from my father-in-law, who is a big McMurtry fan. He and I have wildly divergent book tastes most of the time. I'm normally a reader of contemporary fiction. But his recommendations always end up diversifying and deepening my library.

Lastly, share one or two of your all time favorite novels read, excluding classics: It's hard to pick just one or two, so I picked three. I love Lorrie Moore's Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? for its economy and tenderness and sharply witty voice. I love Charles Baxter's The Feast of Love for its intelligent hopefulness and for its seamless braiding together of multiple narratives. And I love Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita for its muscular playfulness with language and, of course, its deeply twisted and deeply flawed, yet deeply sympathetic narrator. That book's an interesting one - it's taken up such a place in our popular culture that people tend to think they really know it even if they haven't read it. I was one of those people. But knowing the most salacious details of the story has nothing to do with truly knowing that book. Once I read it, it made me think differently about how to write sentences.

Type: Fiction, 368 pages, Hardcover

Synopsis:

“Going missing was the only interesting thing my brother had ever done.”Even a decade later, the memories of the year Lydia Pasternak turned sixteen continue to haunt her. As a teenager, Lydia lived in her older brother’s shadow. While Danny’s athletic skills and good looks established his place with the popular set at school, Lydia’s smarts relegated her to the sidelines, where she rolled her eyes at her brother and his meathead friends and suffered his casual cruelty with resigned bewilderment. Though a part of her secretly wished for a return of the easy friendship she and Danny shared as children, another part of her wished Danny would just vanish. And then, one night, he did.

In the year following Danny Pasternak’s disappearance, his parents go off the rails, his town buzzes with self-indulgent mourning, and his little sister Lydia finds herself thrust into unwanted celebrity, forced to negotiate her ambivalent—often grudging—grief for a brother she did not particularly like. Suddenly embraced by Danny’s old crowd, forgotten by her parents, and drawn into the missing person investigation by her family’s intriguing private eye, Lydia both blossoms and struggles to find herself during Danny’s absence. But when a trail of clues leads to a shocking outcome in her brother’s case, the teenaged Lydia and the adult she will become are irrevocably changed, even now as she reluctantly prepares to return to her hometown.

Relentlessly gripping, often funny, and profoundly moving, The Local News is a powerful exploration of the fraught relationship between a brother and sister and how our siblings define who we are.

Review:
"Miriam Gershow has a fresh, funny and very engaging voice and a powerful story to tell, and Lydia Pasternak is a character you'll miss long after the book is finished. I was charmed from the first page and undone by the last." - Beth Gutcheon, author of Good-Bye and Amen and Leeway Cottage

“The Local News achieves two nearly impossible things: It's a funny book about harrowing circumstances, and it's a poignant book about high school. Gershow's narrator, Lydia Pasternak, is droll, keen, and utterly engaging. I couldn't put this novel down." - Anthony Doerr, author of The Shell Collector and Four Seasons in Rome

Guest Review: The Art of Racing In The Rain

Guest review by Lisa

A former documentary film maker, Garth Stein is a playwright and the author of three novels. He has won a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award, and has been a Book Sense Pick in both hardcover and paperback. He lives in Seattle with his family.

The hands are the windows to a man’s soul - Enzo

This story is told from the point of view of a philosophical dog named Enzo. Enzo's master is Denny Swift, a sometimes race car driver. Denny marries, has a daughter, then loses his wife to brain cancer. Her parents, determined to gain custody of Denny's daughter, accuse him of a crime and file for custody. Through all of this Enzo explains how the lessons Denny has learned in racing help him deal with the things life has thrown at him.

It took some time to get over the idea of dog as narrator of a grown-up book and to really pay attention to the passages about racing (because it does play such an important part in the book). But I soon bought into the whole concept and really enjoyed this book. Stein knows his stuff about racing and did a wonderful job of fleshing out the main characters (although the in-laws are fairly one-dimensional, particularly the father). I could really see the action in this book as it took place and felt I could "see" the people and places. Highly recommend this one for dog lovers who will surely be able to believe that their dogs are equally as intelligent!

Type: Fiction, 336 pages, Hardcover

Synopsis:Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

Reviews:

The art of Racing in the Rain has everything: love, tradegy, redemption, danger, and most especially – the canine narrator Enzo. This old soul of a dog has much to teach to us about being human. I loved this book – Sara Gruen, Author of Water for Elephants

BN.COM review: The title may throw you, but the book will capture you. The tale (tail?) is unique and is told from a most unusual perspective. Embedded throughout are gems of wisdom about life and (I particularly liked this) tidbits of droll humor. The reader will find it hard to put down the book, from the first page all the way through the most unusual conclusion. I've recommendedt to many and have yet to find anyone who wasn't enthralled. Go Enzo!

Review: Eating Heaven


Note: Book Giveaway is closed (April 17)

Eating Heaven is our fifth selection for the MMBC. We will begin discussing the book on Wednesday, June 24th. The author has generously donated 24 books. If you are interested in participating please send me an email with your address and ‘Eating Heaven’ in the subject line.
This book grabs you from the first chapter, letting you know this is a funny, heartfelt story about a woman trying to find her way through life. Eleanor is a food writer with food issues, mother issues, relationship issues… did I say food issues? You will laugh/cringe while reading the ice cream incident.

I couldn’t put it down and I love a book that let’s me shed a few tears (I can’t stop talking about it). I can’t wait for our discussion!

I found this review at BN.COM, is the perfect summary of the book: From the moment main character Eleanor gorges on ice cream behind a dumpster, I knew this book was going to be something different and more real than I'd read in a long time. I connected deeply with Eleanor, and cried and laughed with her all of the way through this beautiful story of a woman taking care of a dying father figure and trying to figure out her own problems, which include, of course, eating, a contentious relationship with her narcissistic mother, a career that leaves her soul feeling sucked dry, and men who can't see past her size. The author's writing is deceptively simple. It's only when you stop and re-read something that was stated so perfectly you can see-smell-touch-taste it that you realize how masterful she really is. The eating scenes will leave you breathless! I can't recommend it highly enough.
Type: Fiction, 270 pages, Trade paperback
Click here for the reader’s guide

Author Q&A
Tell us a little about yourself: I've been writing full-time since 1995, when I left a corporate job to begin freelancing for magazines and newspapers. I have no formal education in writing, but I've just always been a writer, always loved to write, and love it more all the time. Writing fiction was always my pie-in-the-sky dream, so I feel like a lucky, lucky person to get to do it all the time now.

Do you write daily? When I'm working on a book, which is 9.9/10 of the time, I write every weekday. I tend to write in the mornings until the creative juices run dry and do other work related tasks in the afternoons. I think it's important to write every day, for me at least. Only with the slow steady amassing of pages can you write a novel, except for those freaks of nature (and some of them are my friends) who can write a novel quickly.

What was it like getting your first novel published? My first novel had been around the block with many publishers, getting nice rejections over and over, and I was starting to wonder if anything would ever happen with it. I wondered if I should keep writing or take it as a sign from the universe that it wasn't meant to be. My husband and I had just moved to Portland from Denver, and I was driving in the wooded hills above Portland, sightseeing with a friend, when I got a call from my agent on my cell phone. Over static and intermittent drop-outs, I could tell she was really excited. I finally comprehended: my book had sold! I had to pull over and get out of the car and stand on one leg bent sideways with an arm poking up to get reception, but my agent was laughing and crying, and my friend was laughing and crying, and it was pretty much the best day of my life! My agent said, "It's okay, you can scream," so I did.

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)? I think it's the natural progression of media technology, and that it's really scary for the book business. To me, they seem most appropriate for traveling, and for students with lots of text books, but I think the generation that is growing up on iPods and Gameboys and constant texting/tweeting will probably use them far more than most adults would now. I'd like to think that there will always be a place for the printed book, just as with other printed media. Paper is actually an amazing and cheap medium for transporting lots of text, and requires no electricity or battery power, and is easily recycled. And nothing will ever feel like a book in your hands, smell like a book when you first open it, and look so lovely on your shelves, there to remind you of an experience you've had, an emotional connection to another world.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? Write. I don't mean to sound trite, but it's often the thing beginning writers overlook because they're so worried about things like, should they write (yes), can they make a living writing (the odds are no), will they ever get published (impossible to know at this stage) etc. The first order of business is to write.

What are you reading now? A book I'm blurbing, but as soon as I'm finished with that I'm going to read Benny and Shrimp, a quirky middle-aged love story written by a Swedish author and being published in the U.S. by Penguin this spring. And then my friend Randy Sue Coburn's new book, A Better View of Paradise, coming out in June.

Lastly, share one or two of your all time favorite novels read, excluding classics: A Yellow Raft on Blue Water by Michael Dorris, the first book that ever made me want to try a particular writing technique, which was writing from different viewpoints. The same story is told by a grandmother, mother, and daughter. It's wonderful. And House of Spirits by Julia Alvarez, which introduced me to magical realism.

Synopsis:Nothing gets Eleanor Samuels's heart racing like a double scoop of mocha fudge chunk. Sure, the magazine writer may have some issues aside from food, but she isn't quite ready to face them. Then her beloved Uncle Benny falls ill, and what at first seems scary and daunting becomes a blessing in disguise. Because while she cooks and cares for him-and enjoys a delicious flirtation with a new chef in town-Eleanor begins to uncover some long-buried secrets about her emotionally frayed family and may finally get the chance to become the woman she's always wanted to be.

Reviews:
“exactly the kind of book that most love to read – rich, funny, sad, sensual, and hopeful. I devoured every single word…Jennie Shortridge’s books are a tonic to the heart.” – Barbara Samuel, author of Lady Luck’s Map of Vegas
“I love this book.” – Lisa Tucker, Author of Shout Down the Moon

In the Frog Pond this week


Bookworm with a View is a featured site in the frog pond for BzzAgent.com. How exciting!

I can’t wait to read the feedback – Bookworm with a View is only a few months old and I'm making content and structure updates weekly and appreciate your honest feedback, hope you will share this with your friends and visit often. Increased viewership helps me work with authors and publishers!
Thanks for visiting!

Review: The Golden Notebook


I wanted to like this book. It’s very well written, flows easy and grabs you in the first 50 pages.

This is a story of two women with a slanted view of life, cup half empty types. Richard, the ex-husband of one of the women is self absorbed and actually unlikeable. We follow the lives of the three as they act without remorse and direction.

I enjoyed the idea of the four notebooks and Anna’s struggle to keep sanity in her life. I also enjoyed the historical references, the idea of feminism and living a messy life. What I didn’t enjoy was the lack of emotion for decisions made, the idea that having multiple affairs being okay as long as it makes you happy. This is how the book read for me. I wonder how I would feel reading this book in college and unmarried. It might be a different experience.

From Wikipedia: In 2007, Lessing won the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was described by the Swedish Academy as "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny".[1] Lessing is the eleventh woman to win the prize in its 106-year history,[2][3] and also the oldest person ever to win the literature award

Because of her campaigning against nuclear arms and South African apartheid, Lessing was banned from that country and from Rhodesia for many years.[12] Lessing moved to London with her youngest son in 1949 and it was at this time her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, was published.[10] Her breakthrough work though, was The Golden Notebook, written in 1962.[9]

If you are thinking about reading this book or have read it, there is an interesting website dedicated to The Golden Notebook. The comments are insightful.
BWAV rating of this book: 3.5 stars
Type: Fiction, 672 pages, Trade paperback

Synopsis:
Anna is a writer, author of one very successful novel, who now keeps four notebooks. In one, with a black cover, she reviews the African experience of her earlier years. In a red one she records her political life, her disillusionment with communism. In a yellow one she writes a novel in which the heroine relives part of her own experience. And in a blue one she keeps a personal diary. Finally, in love with an American writer and threatened with insanity, Anna resolves to bring the threads of all four books together in a golden notebook.

Doris Lessing's best-known and most influential novel, The Golden Notebook retains its extraordinary power and relevance decades after its initial publication.

Reviews:
“No ordinary work of fiction…The technique, in a word, is brilliant.” – Saturday Review

BN.COM Review: I was really disappointed. The story is too wordy and doesn't grab the readers attention. Definitely not worth the effort of reading 600 pages.

BN.COM Review: This is a really great book for anyone but I guess its for girls you could say anyway I loved this book it was so good and such a great page turner.

Review: Firefly Lane


Kristin Hannah has written over 10 novels. She didn’t become a novelist until spending years in advertising and law. When she married and spent months on bed rest her husband gave her the nudge and the rest is history. From her website, she notes that “The rejections came, of course, and they stung for a while, but each one really just spurred me to try harder, work more. In 1990, I got "the call," and in that moment, I went from a young mother with a cooler-than-average hobby to a professional writer, and I've never looked back. In all the years between then and now, I have never lost my love of, or my enthusiasm for, telling stories. I am truly blessed to be a wife, a mother, and a writer.”

This is the story of long term friendship, the kind that weathers one storm after another over thirty years. I’m sure some of the novels success is due to the bond between Kate and Tully – if you do not have a friendship like this, you might be envious!

There is a moment in the story when they can't get past an obstacle, tragedy brings them back together and keeps you enthralled and in tears for the duration of the book. How they deal with the situation, and how it affects everyone around them is inspiring and let’s you believe that the best of friends are those who can set aside both small and large hurts to forgive those they love.

If I struggled with any specific part of the story, there is an illness in the book that didn’t read true to me. I have a friend struggling with this rare disease and I had to remind myself that each case is unique, do not get caught up in the details (it is a book, not life). That said, the book is well referenced, I enjoyed the songs and current events mentioned throughout the story. I did enjoy the messy relationships in the book and Johnny's character.

Author Q&A
How long have you been writing? It feels as if I just got started on this career. I'm always a little bit surprised by my answer to this question: it's 21 years. Honestly, I don't know how that's possible being as young as I am! That's certainly the upside of a career you love. Time flies.

How did you get started? Unlike many of my peers, I was not one of those people who always wanted to be a writer. In all my college years, I only signed up for a creative writing class once, and I dropped it almost immediately. As soon as the professor mentioned "reading work aloud," I bolted. Little did I know that readings would be part of my job description years later…. Click here to read the complete interview
Type: Fiction, 479 pages, Trade paperback

Synopsis:From the New York Times bestselling author of On Mystic Lake comes a powerful novel of love, loss, and the magic of friendship. . . .

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all---beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship---jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Reviews:

With perfect pitch, Kristin Hannah describes the tumult and energy of the seventies and eighties, and on a deeper level takes readers into the heart of a friendship between two women. Firefly Lane is masterful at the grand sweep and the fine detail. – Elin Hilderbrand, author of Barefoot

BN.COM review: Even though I cried through most of this book, it was far and away one of the best I've read. A great friendship story. I don't re-read books ... this one I will.

BN.COM review: Well written, rather quick read, for a rainy day ... or a day at the beach. Definitely a "chick pick"

Guest Review: The Drowning People


Guest review by Lisa

Richard Mason began writing The Drowning People at the age of 18. He is now 30, with a healthy respect for PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICATION and significant responsibility for 51 KIDS. Fortunately I share this responsibility with SEVERAL EXTRAORDINARY INDIVIDUALS.

The story opens with the narrator admitting that he has killed his wife and no one suspects it. The rest of the book is the explanation as to why he has done it. The reader is taken back to the time when the narrator is an aspiring 17-year-old violin student and first meets Ella, a member of the British aristocracy. It is the story of love, friendship, betrayal and revenge. The book could have been forty pages shorter and not lost a thing but it does pull the reader into the tale. Mason paint vivid pictures and fills out his characters. Know going in that this is a depressing book but it has twist I did not see coming and it kept me reading as I tried to figure out the characters' motivations.

Last April, Richard Mason gave an extremely personal interview to The Mail:

I was watching Little Voice in a Parisian cinema, when I had my first panic attack. I was 21 and the film, about the perils of youthful success, wasn’t a good choice for someone in my state of mind. When the credits began to roll, I found I couldn’t move.

I couldn’t move when the lights went up, or when the theatre cleared, or when the lights went up, or when the theatre cleared, or when the ushers
came in to sweep up the popcorn. Told coldly that I could remain only if I bought a new ticket, I eventually managed to stand…
Click here to read the full article

For more interviews, Click here

Type: Fiction, 400 pages, Trade paperback

Synopsis: The Drowning People was my attempt to tell the story of a man’s life backwards, from the age of 70, in his own words. It’s a book about consequences and family secrets, and the crazy things you do the first time you fall in love.

Reviews:
BN.COM Review: Hypnotic, passionate, disturbing, and dark, "The Drowning People" is a must-read. This book is a Master Class in the art of atmosphere, foreshadowing, and character development. The story itself is nothing extraordinary-- but the way it's written will grab you and never let you go. Read it, read it, read it.

BN.COM Review: story is simply entrancing! I could not put this book down!! Persuasive and forceful literature.

Guest Review: Cold Comfort Farm


Guest review by Lisa

After reading Lisa's review and the synopsis below, I need to find a copy of this book!

Stella Gibbons was born in Hampstead, Ireland in 1902. After the deaths of her parents, she supported herself and her younger brothers working for the United British Press and later as a journalist for the Evening Standard and The Lady. Cold Comfort Farm was published in 1932 to great success and is the novel for which Gibbons is most often remembered. Stella Gibbons continued to write novels and poetry, and to work as a journalist until shortly before her death in 1989.

Flora Poste, who has lived a life of wealth, has just been orphaned and discovered that, in fact, she is not well off. She decides she would rather appeal to the kindness of family rather than get a job and selects the Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm because she believes it will be a great "project." Cold Comfort Farm is ruled by Flora's Aunt Ada Doom who rarely leaves her room and insists no one ever leave the farm. The large family that populates Cold Comfort Farm are quirky but, fortunately for Flora, pliable and she soon starts stirring things up on the farm.

This book is a satirical jab at class structure, family dynamics, intellectualism, religion, and those who take themselves much too seriously. Great fun! Read the book then rent the movie, which is as faithful an adaptation as I have ever seen.

Synopsis:
Winner of the 1933 Femina Vie Heureuse Prize, Cold Comfort Farm is a wickedly funny portrait of British rural life in the 1930's. Flora Poste, a recently orphaned socialite, moves in with her country relatives, the gloomy Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm, and becomes enmeshed in a web of violent emotions, despair, and scheming, until Flora manages to set things right. A BBC Radio Presents dramatization featuring stirring music and sound effects.

A masterful satire on the English Gothic novel.

Type: Fiction, 128 pages, Trade paperback

Reviews:
BN.COM: What a hoot! I took this book on a beach vacation this past year and it was the perfect read for relaxing in the sun. I loved the characters, they are totally outlandish! I recommend it to anyone who likes old classics because this one makes fun of them all.

MMBC4: The Local News


The Local News, written by Miriam Gershow, is our fourth selection. We will be discussing ‘The Local News’ May 20. Miriam generously donated 24 copies of her book to the MMBC, all copies have been sent to the readers. You can still participate in the MMBC if you didn’t receive a copy of this book. You can purchase the book at nearly all book stores (or online), you may also be able to find a copy at your local library.

Below you will find an author Q&A below to learn a little more about the author, enjoy the book everyone!

Synopsis:
Even a decade later, the memories of the year Lydia Pasternak turned sixteen continue to haunt her. As a teenager, Lydia lived in her older brother's shadow. While Danny's athletic skills and good looks established his place with the popular set at school, Lydia's smarts relegated her to the sidelines, where she rolled her eyes at her brother and his meathead friends and suffered his casual cruelty with resigned bewilderment. Though a part of her secretly wished for a return of the easy friendship she and Danny shared as children, another part of her wished Danny would just vanish. And then, one night, he did.

In the year following Danny Pasternak's disappearance, his parents go off the rails, his town buzzes with self-indulgent mourning, and his little sister Lydia finds herself thrust into unwanted celebrity, forced to negotiate her ambivalent--often grudging--grief for a brother she did not particularly like. Suddenly embraced by Danny's old crowd, forgotten by her parents, and drawn into the missing person investigation by her family's intriguing private eye, Lydia both blossoms and struggles to find herself during Danny's absence. But when a trail of clues leads to a shocking outcome in her brother's case, the teenaged Lydia and the adult she will become are irrevocably changed, even now as she reluctantly prepares to return to her hometown.

Relentlessly gripping, often funny, and profoundly moving, The Local News is a powerful exploration of the fraught relationship between a brother and sister and how our siblings define who we are.

Praise for ‘The Local News’:
Miriam Gershow is a novelist, short story writer and teacher. Her debut novel, The Local News, has been called “deftly heartbreaking” with “urgency and heft” by The New York Times, as well as “an accomplished debut” (Publisher’s Weekly) with a “disarmingly unsentimental narrative voice,” (Kirkus Reviews).

"The Local News is the story of a life created around loss. Gershow's book is deeply sympathetic, often painful, and always utterly believable. Not a book you're likely to put down once started, nor to forget once finished, a remarkable achievement." - Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club and Wit's End

Miriam answers a few questions:Tell us a little about yourself (biography): I grew up in Michigan, spending most of my childhood in a suburb not unlike Fairfield in The Local News. In 1994, I got on an Amtrak train and checked out the west coast, moving to Oregon shortly after. I've lived here ever since - 6 years in Portland, the rest in Eugene, where I still live now, except I've added a husband and an extremely spoiled cat to my household. For my day job, I'm an instructor at the University of Oregon.

Do you write daily? When I'm working on a project, yes. The nice thing about a day job at a university, is that my teaching schedule is only two or three days a week, and even on those days, I can usually squeeze some time in before or between classes. Between projects I tend to take a stretch of time off, up to several months.

Are you working on a new book or have an idea for one? I am, but I'm superstitious about talking about projects too early. So I'll just say it's very different in tone and style from The Local News, though I once again - and not intentionally - find myself back in the realm of sibling relationships.

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)? I think anything that helps people to read books or helps make books more popular and accessible is excellent. I know people who swear by their Kindle, and I have several friends who've bought my book via Kindle. Great. Personally, I don't think I'll ever buy one, though. I love the sensory experience of holding the book and turning the pages. I can't see easily giving that up.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? The one tip is to focus on the writing, itself, as much as possible, without getting too preoccupied about things like getting published or finding an agent. The business end of things is daunting and distracting. I kept myself out of it for as long as possible, and just kept my nose to the proverbial grindstone. Give yourself time to really figure out how to write and how to write well - which can be a long and slow and scary process with plenty of setbacks - before turning your attention to the publishing industry. And while you're busy with the writing, find a few trusted readers who understand what you're trying to do, and who can both cheerlead and be healthily critical of your work. (I suppose that's technically two tips).

What are you reading now? A short book of essays by Larry McMurtry about Texas and reading and family and cowboy myths. It's called "Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen." It was a loan from my father-in-law, who is a big McMurtry fan. He and I have wildly divergent book tastes most of the time. I'm normally a reader of contemporary fiction. But his recommendations always end up diversifying and deepening my library.

Lastly, share one or two of your all time favorite novels read, excluding classics: It's hard to pick just one or two, so I picked three. I love Lorrie Moore's Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? for its economy and tenderness and sharply witty voice.

OBBC72: March Recap & author discussion


Last week my face-to-face book group met to discuss ‘While my Sister Sleeps’. We had 13 women join us for a discussion with author Barbara Delinsky. What a night!

Let me know start our recap by thanking Barbara for talking with us for an hour. Her new book has been out for a month and she agreed to meet with us while her schedule is in full swing with events to publicize her new novel.

Barbara Delinsky (BD) writes commercial fiction. She was quick to note that she isn’t fond of this term - explaining that her novels appeal to a large, diverse audience. Her readers are looking for a fast paced storyline with surprises throughout the book.

When starting a book, BD generally knows where she is headed but leaves room for new ideas and character development. When asked if there were any surprises during the writing process, BD mentioned Marjorie (grandmother with Alzheimer’s) wasn’t intended to be in the book and was a pleasant surprise.

BD knew she wanted to write about an event that would stop a family in their tracks. Robin’s character came to her first, a runner who experiences a life threatening event, resulting in most of the books focus placed around a hospital. She also wanted to bring family secrets into the storyline and knew that Molly (the 27 year old sister) would be the main character. This is a coming of age story of Molly (who has been living in the shadow of her older sister).

Robin is in a coma for most of the story. When developing Robin’s character, BD thought to introduce a diary but wondered how a 32 yr old would use a diary, thus creating journals on her computer and having the discs “hidden” in her belongings. Molly finds the journals – as we learn more about Robin, Molly learns to be her sisters voice.

BD mentioned that running a common theme in her books (this is not intentional). She is not a runner but grew up watching the Boston marathon and has fond memories of handing orange slices to runners. She had to do a bit of research on the subject while preparing to write this book.

All of the characters experience personal growth throughout the book. BD maps this out beforehand – it is well planned. After the first 2 to 3 chapters have been written she charts out the character to see their growth. BD doesn’t like to have a villain in her stories – she doesn’t enjoy writing them. She likes redemption in a story and understands that there are two sides to every story.

Lastly, we asked her what she is currently working. She is writing a story involving three teenagers who decide to get pregnant. The story may sound familiar to the 2008 Mass ‘scandal’ but this story will focus on the mother’s. Sarah Palin is a loose inspiration for the story. When a young girl becomes pregnant people tend to look to the mother and she feels judged for the situation. One of the mother’s is a school principal, the impact of having a teenager daughter who becomes pregnant will be explored.

What are you reading right now? ‘Unaccompanied Earth’ by Jumpha Lahiri (for her book club). She also loves reading Toni Morrison. She recently read ‘Mercy’, ‘Beloved’ is her favorite Morrison book.

Barbara Delinsky is a Breast Cancer survivor (her mother died of Breast cancer and her two sisters are cancer survivors). She has written an empowering book called ‘
Uplift, all proceeds are donated to charity.

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