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Archive for January, 2012

For those of you needing something to do while you wait for the 2012 Super Bowl or for those of you needing something to read during the Super Bowl, we have some novels for you.  Why? Because assuming there is great overlap between avid readers and avid sports fans, we want to make sure  you all have some super reads to accompany the pre-game hype, the chili, the nachos, all those funky ads and the let-down once the game is over.

So here we go – two Super Reads for Super Bowl Sunday. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats   and When the Elephants Dance .

Some things these books have in common: neither novel is well-known among my friends or even among fellow book lovers/sellers I have encountered.  Both novels take place in lands I have not yet been lucky enough to visit.  Both novels are grounded in their location. Both novels draw on traditional folklore from their respective countries to weave a tale that remains with the reader for a long time. I believe both were even first novels for their respective authors.  So this post is dedicated to these two amazing – even “super” – finds that are reminiscent of each other.  We hope that flipping their pages is as enjoyable as waiting for those touchdowns, Super Bowl parties and amusing ads.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan Philip-Sendker ( Feb 2012).  I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of the English translation of this novel and I loved every word.  I am now fully aware of why this has remained a bestselling novel in Germany,  and I am extremely grateful someone translated it to English so that I was able to read it — as my German is non-existent.

The plot begins when a 30-something woman goes in search of her father who has mysteriously left his family and job in America to find his first love.  The story continues in Burma where the daughter is met by a wise man who slowly reveals the incredible truth of her father’s childhood. In between these revelations, the daughter must reconcile her father’s story with the man she thought she knew.  The characters and the beauty of Burma will remain with you long after you close this book. ~ Lisa Christie

When the Elephants Dance by Tessa Uriza Holthe (March 2002).  This novel provides insight into Filipino culture in the waning days of World War II.  How?  By following the Karangalans – a family who huddles with their neighbors in the cellar of a house near Manila to wait out the war.  The book alternates between 1) heart-wrenching looks at life during war as those hiding in the basement venture out to forage for much-needed food, water and news and, 2) spellbinding myths and legends the group uses to entertain each other while they wait for the war to end.  The book is a testament to the power of stories in giving much-needed resolve to survive. ~ Lisa Christie

OK, for those of you reading this who need a sports book for your Super Bowl count down– here you go — John Feinstein’s young adult series.  If possible, listen to them as an audio book. He narrates and that oh-so-familiar voice from his guest spots on NPR and It’s Only a Game, guides you well as you enjoy the mysteries that Steve Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson, his book smart, common sense endowed and avid sports fan teen heroes uncover as they cover America’s great sporting events: NCAA final four, Super Bowl, US Open.  And, while we haven’t yet read it, we noticed that he also has a new book for adults One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game. He considers this not a memoir (he says he is too young for that), but  more of an epilogue to many of his previous best sellers. ~ Lisa Christie

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As part of our mission to promote authors and the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “Three Questions”.  In it, we’ll pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses will  be posted on The Book Jam in the week leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events.

We’re thrilled to welcome Sarah Pinneo, author of the new novel Julia’s Child, as the first contributor to “Three Questions”.

Sarah will be appearing at the Norwich Bookstore on Tuesday, January 31st  at 7:00pm where she will talk about her book, a comedy chronicling the success and subsequent challenges that face main character and baby food “momtrepreneur” Julia Bailey.  For more information about the bookstore, upcoming speaker engagements or to reserve a seat, simply click on the following link for The Norwich Bookstore. But hurry because seats for this event are almost full!

Now, her responses to our three questions.

Sarah Pinneo

1. What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

I read everything, from classics to thrillers. This was brought home to me one recent evening as I was entering the books I’d just read into GoodReads, and one was by Henry James, and the other by Jennifer Weiner.

Julia’s Child best reflects my appreciation for Christopher Buckley and Carl Hiaasen; those two guys write hysterical, zany comedy, but at the same time their work probes issues about which they care deeply.

2. What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

I’d like to meet Alexander McCall Smith. Over coffee, I’d like him to explain to me how he writes four or five novels a year. Come to think of it, he probably drinks quite a bit of coffee. It would be perfect.

And her new book3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

It’s a wobbly stack. I am reading Poser by Claire Dederer, Paradise Lust (which is not bodice ripper, but rather a non-fiction account of seekers of the Garden of Eden) by Wilenski-Lanford, and  The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy. I’m also working my way through On Plimouth Plantation by William Bradford.

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Brrrr. Baby, it’s cold outside. No matter. These frigid temperatures make it all the better to cozy up with a book. In bed. Under a pile of blankets. Wearing very thick socks. Mittens, however, are no good, as they would get in the way of turning the pages.

So if these below zero temperatures make you hungry as you struggle to keep your body temperature at 98.6, then we have a couple of titles to fill you up. The best news of all is that they are both calorie free.
White  Truffles in Winter by N. M. Kelby (2011). Luscious. If you could never read the words truffle, champagne, lavender honey and fois gras enough, then add this novel to your list.

In this appetizing story, author Kelby imagines the last days of the famous French chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935). It’s clear that she’s thoroughly researched and included many details from his illustrious career (Escoffier was the designer of the Titanic’s menus, one of  Sarah Bernhardt’s lovers, a business partner of the hotelier Cesar Ritz, the creator of the modern restaurant kitchen layout, and the designer of such immortal recipes as “Peach Melba” and “Cherries Jubilee”). But this talented writer pushes further and imagines that which “is left unsaid,” believing it to be the most interesting part of  any life.

The first pages unfold with Escoffier’s ailing wife, Delphine, wishing for him to create a dish of her very own. Though they have been married for decades, he has never named one after her. They are both dying and it is in their family kitchen that a lifetime of love is explored, remembered, savored, and interpreted for the first time.

This is more than just a book for food lovers. It’s a sensuous, poetic story that brings details from this era of history to life so that readers can truly taste it. ~Lisa Cadow

The Hundred Foot Journey (2010) by Richard C. Morais. How did I miss this toothsome treasure when it was first published? Some reviewers have described it as Bollywood meets “Ratatouille.” That’s fitting as this fictional story chronicles the development of a talented chef from his boyhood in India through a brief adolescence in England to a full-fledged culinary career in France. But there is more to it than that.

The main character, Hassan, rises above cultural prejudices, crippling accidents, and jealous competitors to shine in his art despite a cut-throat working environment. Culinary enthusiasts will savor the descriptions of oysters (who knew they could be so tricky?!), French kitchens and country markets. Francophiles will love reading about the Alps and villages of the Jura. But the story really shines once Hassan reaches Paris, the pinnacle of all things epicurean. As a former senior editor at Forbes magazine, author Morais keeps the story moving while seamlessly explaining the fiscal realities, risks, and politics involved in running a multi-million dollar restaurant. This book is an education in flavor, talent, and another tantalizing take on the history of fine dining. Read it and eat! ~Lisa Cadow

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As part of the reading we squeezed in “after the relatives left,” (or in one of our cases – as we were travelling to visit them), we were mesmerized by a few books that truly transported us to other times and places.

So at this time of year, in the bleak of winter, when you might be craving an out-of-body experience, picking up one of these titles will do the job. Right from page one.

Some highlights include:

Rules of Civility (2011) by Amos Towles. Each time I picked up this book it was as if a ’38 Bentley had siddled up to my door to take me for a literary ride. This fabulous novel transports. It’s set in Depression-era  Manhattan and is gloriously atmospheric in the New York it portrays (think flapper dresses, smoky jazz clubs and Great Gatsby-esque Hampton estates with flowing champagne). It is also rich in strong characters and probing in the questions it asks its readers about choices, careers paths and the assumptions we make in life. Towles writing is polished, gorgeous even (hard to believe it’s a first novel), and takes us to 1938 to tell the story of that year in the life of Katey Kontent, a smart, ambitious, working class girl who finds herself rubbing shoulders with the 1%. Besides being a great read, it is a love letter to New York City. Book Group Worthy. ~Lisa Cadow

The Redbreast by Jo  Nesbo (2007). Does watching the Blockbuster movie adaptation of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo have you looking for your next Scandinavian thriller?  Look no further than this first book in Nesbo’s Norwegian series.  What is better praise than the fact it might satisfy that craving for a good thriller?  Well, for me the most satisfying aspect of this thriller is that it transports you to modern-day (OK 1999) Norway.  As the plot switches times, you learn about Norwegian politics during Bill Clinton’s presidency, during WWII, and, ultimately, how Norway’s landscape and history shape the people living in Oslo, Bergen and other small Norwegian towns today.  The book’s main hero, Harry Hole, is flawed and thus interesting. The people he encounters are truly characters in their own right.  And, the plot keeps you reading page after page.  No, this is not high literature – it is a thriller.  But, an even better aspect of this book? If you like it, there are many more in this “Harry Hole” series.   ~ Lisa Christie

11/22/1963: A Novel by Stephen King (2011) – I have not yet finished this tome, but the pacing is superb, the concept fantastic (in the truest sense of that word) and the plot truly does allow you to time travel back to the 1960s.  If this book ends poorly, I will amend this recommendation in the next post.  Enjoy. ~ Lisa Christie

 

 

 

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffinegger (2004). This “oldie but goodie” is eight years old but is still fresh in the story it tells and in the writing style it offers readers. Right away you know you’re in for quite a trip and will have to get your bearings, just as do main characters Henry DeTamble, a time traveling librarian, and his artist wife Clare. This is a unique tale that explores fate and love within a non-linear time sequence. So if you’ve been putting off reading it, January 2012 might just be the perfect “time”. ~Lisa Cadow

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