Reviews

Outline

This quiet introspective read is not for everyone. In it, British novelist Rachel Cusk, examines relationships and self-identity in a series of ten conversations that make up the book. The action occurs in the span of one week while a narrator travels to Greece for a week long writing seminar that she is teaching.

Caveat: this is one of the most unusual novels I have ever read. The author’s voice is sure, steady, and at times mesmerizing. It’s not an action novel in any sense, but rich with everyday life in a way that recalls Virginia Woolf’s works.  Philosophical with wry humor and a deep sense of what makes people tick.

The first dialogue begins on the plane with her seatmate, a wealthy Greek, who is twice, make that thrice divorced. As happens so often in life, the two passengers share many secrets about their lives. We learn that the Greek has a disabled brother and disabled child.  His ex, the mother of his son, wanted to institutionalize the boy, but the

While You're Waiting...The Martian

The Martian has taken the literary world by storm. It has become such a hit that the movie based off the novel will be released in November of this year.  While you're waiting for your copy of the Martian to come in, why not give one of these titles a try.

The Martian by Andy Weir

A team of six astronauts is in the beginning stages of their mission on Mars when a dust storm unexpectedly interrupts their work on the surface of the Red Planet.  Three of the astronauts see Mark Whatney hit by debris and assume he is dead.  They can’t recover his body and save themselves so they leave him on Mars while they make the long journey back to Earth.  Unfortunately for Mark, he was only knocked unconscious and now has to figure out a way to survive on the unforgiving planet for four more years until the next mission is scheduled to arrive.  Told mostly through diary entries written by Mark, this science fiction (emphasis on science) novel is funny, suspenseful and fast-paced.  Weir is able to explain highly technical and complex processes in language that novices can understand and keep up with.  This is the ultimate novel about survival in harsh and lonely conditions.

 

 

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Robert Neville is the last man-living man that is, on Earth.  An incurable plague that somehow Robert is immune to, has taken over the planet and turned every human into a vampire.  Robert spends his days in hiding and his nights hunting down the non-living.  He teeters on the edge of sanity as he grapples with the meaning of life and survival when he is the only one of his species left.  A stressful and intense short story, I Am Legend is an essential story of survival and a testament the human drive to survive.

 

 

Twenty Thousand League Under the Sea by Jules Verne

French naturalist Dr. Aronnax begins an expedition to hunt down a sea monster but upon discovering the Nautilus- a futuristic submarine, he becomes of prisoner of its creator, Captain Nemo.  Together Dr. Arronax and Captain Nemo explore the majesties of the ocean.  A futuristic novel of many years past, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a fantastical story of exploration and survival.

 

 

 

Into the Wild Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild isn’t Science Fiction. Instead it’s the real life story of exploration and survival.  Chris McCandless was a young man who gave his possessions away and embarked on a journey into the wilds of Alaska-and whose body was found a mere four months later. Investigative reporter Jon Krakauer pieces together McCandless's journey and delivers a haunting and thought provoking account of one young man’s adventure.

Around the World in 50 Days: my adventure to every country on Earth

I’m not one for doing the whole of anything: the Appalachian Trail, canoeing the Amazon, skiing across Antarctica, but yes I can see the attraction of visiting every country in the world. The problem is that it is a moving target. Governments change, countries come and go, and unless you are super rich “doing” the world in a timely fashion is not possible.

Yet the inventive, gutsy, rule-breaking Podell finally managed to complete them all though it did take a half century. He began his foreign travels with a quick trip to Canada when he was 24. And yes, he considered this international travel light.

He just completed a degree in international studies. A few years later, as editor of an adventure magazine, he decided he was tired of sending people off on exotic jaunts and staying home, so he set off with a friend to complete the longest land journey ever attempted with his good friend Steve. They got sponsors to pay for the trip and hired a photographer.

Between You & Me: confessions of a comma queen

Are you a grammar aficionado? Do you love learning the ins and outs of different jobs? Do you like reaffirming that your grammar and punctuation is spot-on, or why and how it has strayed from the path of correctness?  If so, Mary Norris’s Between You & Me is exactly right for you. 

Norris describes her life before and during her thirty year tenure at The New Yorker as a copy writer with the detailed knowledge to make sure that the correct word, usage and punctuation is always employed. To accomplish that, her best tool (other than her comprehensive knowledge of grammar) was her noteworthy stash of No. 1 pencils. What an odyssey it was to keep a supply of the best proofreading pencil in the world. And those in a perfect working state.  Solution: a passionate epistolary correspondence with one manufacturer of the yellow-painted rods.

With humor and great descriptive ability Norris describes her first jobs, as a foot checker at a public swimming pool (checking for Athletes foot before swimmers entered the pool), and milkman—make that milkwoman--a job those under fifty may not even know existed. Later, she went to graduate school in literature, and  moved to New York where she took a few lowly desk jobs before she scored an interview at America’s most prestigious literary magazine, The New Yorker.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante is a sensitive, thoughtful portrayal of friendship and finding yourself. Both of the main characters are teen boys who feel out of place in the world around them, until they find each other. Together they navigate the ups and downs of teenage life; friends (or lack of them), family, independence, and love. 

An added bonus of this particular book are the complex parent child relationships. Unlike many YA novels, the parents in this book are very present in their sons' lives. Dante is the only child of intellectuals and Aristotle is the youngest child of self made, hard working people. Both of them love their parents, but both of them find different aspects of their lives hard, if not impossible, to share with them.

This is a great realistic fiction for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. The world is a big place, just because you haven't found where you belong yet, doesn't mean you won't.

Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World

It’s National Poetry Month, and if you want to learn more about the form, pick up this book. Hirshfield writes fine poetry imbued with a Zen calmness and childlike wonder about the natural world. Her prose is intelligent, well-written and informed by a great knowledge of poetry--both modern and classical.

But it’s her descriptions about writing poems that I like best. As she says, “Poetic imagination is muscular, handed, and kinesthetic.” She describes the poet’s reach into the world as “prehensile.”

According to Hirshfield, poets bring the world of the senses to the page, “In poetry’s words, life calls to life with the same inevitability and gladness as bird calls to bird, whale to whale, frog to frog.”

While You're Waiting...The Liar

The Liar, the new book from Nora Roberts, will be released next week.  While you’re waiting for your copy to reach the hold shelf, why not try these other books about women dealing with the aftermath of their husband’s secret lives?

 

The Liar by Nora Roberts

Shelby only found out her husband married her under a false name after he went missing and was presumed dead.  Devastated, she returns to her hometown with her daughter ready to start over-in life and in love. Shelby discovers a key to a safe deposit box.  What she finds inside convinces her that not only was her marriage a lie, but the stranger she was sharing her life with is a very dangerous man.  Roberts’ expert storytelling leaves the reader on the edge of her (or his!) seat right until the very end.

 

 

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Grace is a successful New York Therapist with a beautiful family and is about to start a PR blitz for her forthcoming self-help book about relationships-and how to identify the signs women tend to ignore that lead to heartbreak.  Active in her son’s school, Grace is shocked when one of her fellow committee members, Malaga, is found murdered.  Grace’s husband, Jonathon, has always been distant emotionally and works long hours, so it took Grace awhile to realize that he was missing, and not in the Midwest for a conference like he claimed.  Tension increases as Grace (and the reader) realizes that Jonathon’s disappearance and Malaga’s death are related.  Korelitz masterfully expresses Grace’s increasing anxiety as she pieces together her husband’s secret life while her own is falling apart.

 

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

The lives of three seemingly unrelated women collide when one of the women, Cecilia, finds a letter from her husband to be opened only in the event of his death.  Concerned, she reads the letter and everything she thought about her marriage begins unravel.  Meanwhile, Tess is facing her own marriage problems.  Her husband has just confessed that he and Tess’s cousin are in love.  Tess moves her young son back to her hometown to live with her mother and starts a relationship with the local school’s P.E. teacher.  Rachel, the school secretary, believes the P.E. teacher murdered her only daughter thirty years earlier. These three women’s lives collide in unexpected and disturbing turns of events.

 

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreeve

A knock on her door at 3am shatter’s Katherine Lyon’s life.  The plane her husband Jack was piloting exploded off the coast of Ireland, killing all 103 on board.  The investigation indicates a bomb-and implicates Jack as being complicit in the plot.  Katherine desperately tries to protect her daughter from shock after shock as her husband’s secret life comes to light.  Shreeve is expert at revealing game changing details at just the right moment and will leave reader’s wondering just how much they know about their loved ones.

Unpublished

Leaving Before the Rains Come

If you’re read Fuller’s first two memoirs you know that 1. Her family drinks a lot 2. Is a tad dysfunctional 3. But everyone loves each other and also madly loves the people, wildlife, landscape of southern Africa.

In this book, Fuller (whose nickname is Bobo) recounts picking up stakes, giving up her African home and moving with her husband to Wyoming where the snow in the winter comes up to the eaves of the old cabins.

Fuller’s writing is as entertaining as ever especially when she describes her mother and father’s exploits. There’s the day the rabid dog visits the property and thankfully Bobo’s mother has the sense not to let into her bedroom. Also, the day she drives home from the bar with her husband on the car roof. When he begins banging on it repeatedly, she interprets his bangs as go faster, go faster. Instead of the desperate pleas to pull over and let him down that he meant.

While You're Waiting...Pioneer Girl

Pioneer GirlThose of us who read the Little House on the Prairie Series as children have been eagerly awaiting Laura Ingalls Wilder’s posthumous autobiography Pioneer Girl.  The unedited, previously unpublished draft of the autobiography was originally written in 1929 served as the foundation for the Little House series after it was rejected for publication.  A columnist and editor, Wilder wrote about the 16 years her family moved through the mid-West, heavily describing the land and the work.  Unfortunately, the wait for this fantastic annotated autobiography is long, so here are some read alikes the work through while you’re waiting.

 

Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This compilation contains over 140 articles that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote from 1911-1929 and mostly published in Farmers Week.  They describe life on a Missouri Farm and of a much simpler life.  If what drew you to Prairie Girl was the nonfiction writing of Wilder; then Little House in the Ozarks  is sure to please.

 

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

Ultra educated but unemployed, Lee Lien returns home to help her Vietnamese immigrant parents run their restaurant.  Fascinated since childhood by her mother’s broach, Lee imagined it once belonged to Laura Ingalls Wilder-left in Saigon by Wilder’s daughter, Rose.  One day, Lee’s brother disappears suddenly, with a cryptic message attached to the broach. Lee begins to wonder, and then obsess over if there’s any truth to her fantasy.  Her clues lead her to interesting parallels between Laura and Rose and her and her own mother.  If you’re interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder in a less academic sense, this engaging and character driven novel will delight.

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