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Archive for October, 2012

 Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling (2012) – The death of a town councilman unearths dysfunctional town politics, not-at-all-functioning public housing complexes, turned off teenagers engaging in unsafe activities, corrupt politicians, and townspeople looking out only for themselves.  And despite the fact plot is often bleak, her characters are memorable and the messages embedded throughout this novel resonate during this election season.  Ms. Rowling’s first forray into adult literature is all about muggles, and we know it was panned by many critics, but this book does make you think.

Primary Colors: A novel of politics by Anonymous, later revealed to be Joe Klein (2006)- A fun romp through 1990s politics. Yes, the campaign greatly resembles Bill Clinton’s, but what is wrong with that? Have fun laughing at, or possibly with, a fictional look at presidential campaigns.

From the policy makers, because sometimes you just need the numbers

The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the next revolution for women work and familyby Madeleine Kunin (2012) - We should first say that we are fans of our former governor, Ms. Kunin. Her career path, poise, thoughtfulness, compassion and intelligence are inspiring.  In her latest book, she argues that empowering women to succeed in their work is good for everyone – men, women and children.  She then discusses what it will take for this vision to occur.  Whether you agree with her politics or not, this book provides important fodder for intelligent discussions. (At the very least we recommend you read her short introduction.)

A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget by the National Priorities Project  (2012) – An accessible, amply illustrated look at the complications of our national budget. To be truly informed voters we should all know a little something about our budget and the national priorities project has made that task a bit more palatable.  Perfect for your favorite wonk.


From the satirists, because sometimes you just need to laugh

 Tweet Land of Liberty:Irreverent rhymes from our political circus by Elinor Lipman (2012) – One of our favorite humorous novelists, Elinor Lipman, has produced daily poetic tweets about the 2012 election for quite some time.  Recently, someone was smart enough to gather them in a book.  This collection contains many tweets that are hilarious and most are cleverly embedded in actual headlines about the various campaigns. Enjoy revisiting the work of Michele Bachman, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and many others.

 The Snark Handbook: politics and government edition. Gridlock, red-tape and other insults to we the people by Lawrence Dorfman (2012). This little book has quotes by politicians about politics, by politicians about other politicians, by people you have never heard of about politics and politicians, all presented in a lovely little book that will leave you smiling and sometimes a bit sad, but ideally comforted by the fact that politicians and politics have said and done nasty things for years, not just today and somehow we have survived as a nation.

 America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert (2012) – The Colbert Show team returns with a parody of elections.  Yes, this book employs
the egotistical voice of “Stephen Colbert” to inform readers.  And if you are not a fan of that voice, you will probably not be a fan of this book.  But this book offers an interesting take on how our country is “Americeptional” in a wide range of subjects: healthcare,
Wall Street, energy, and elections. Through it all, there are gags to make you smile (even if only a little bit) no matter what your political bent.

Disclaimer – Lisa Cadow wanted to make sure our readers know that she relied on Lisa Christie to screen the books for this post.  So please don’t ask her for her take on the Federal Budget any time soon. She still has a few pages to go on that selection.

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They say no man is an island but sometimes you just really want to read a book that takes place on one. All three titles below (plus a bonus review) meet that criteria. So with leaves falling all around and temperatures dropping, curl up and set sail with a good story that transports you to several very different islands in some faraway oceans, both real and some imagined. Have a nice trip, take a bookmark, and don’t forget to catch the ferry home when you’re done reading.

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman (July 2012). As its title suggests, this story takes place far out to sea on a remote Australian island where Tom, a lighthouse keeper, and his wife Isabelle are stationed. Everything changes one day when a rowboat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying baby. Having tried for years to conceive a child, this offering from the sea seems to be the answer to Isabelle’s prayers. Despite Tom’s reservations, she convinces him they should claim the baby as their own. They name her Lucy and the drama is set in motion as the reader learns of the effect that decision will have on many families as well as on future generations.  This is a book about profound love, loss, and how choices shape our lives. Stedman’s writing is excellent, believable, and “unputdownable”. I loved the landscape of this book, from the windswept rock out in the ocean to the western coast of 1920′s Australia where there were fortunes to be made and rugged individuals carving out a country in the post WWI era. I will remember this book and its characters for a long time. Highly recommended. ~Lisa Cadow

The Vanishing Act by Mette Jacobsen (September 2012). This book, too, is set on a tiny, yet unnamed island with only a handful of quirky inhabitants – and it’s story is also shaped by a body washing up on shore. It’s been a year since Minou’s mother disappeared, walking out of the front door of their cottage in her best dress with an umbrella in hand never to be seen again. Minou doesn’t quite believe that she’s dead and spends much of her days reconstructing her memory, considering her beautifully painted murals, remembering her role in the island’s circus, and trying to solve the mystery of where her mother could be. When Minou finds the body of a boy on the beach, she and her father, a fisherman and philosopher, carry it back to their house and carefully watch over it until a boat can arrive to remove it to the mainland. In the meantime, the two tell the boy their secrets, wishes, and thoughts. A novel of love and loss, and healing, Vanishing Act reads has a timeless, dreamlike s quality to it and reads like a fable or an old-fashioned fairy tale. The writing is excellent, the concept unique, and the overall effect truly poetic. Very different. Very good. A GEM.~Lisa Cadow

 Both these books reminded us of perhaps the most famous of all stories about bodies being washed up on shore – Shakespeare’s The TempestIn this play, a storm washes the live bodies of noblemen onto an island populated by Prospero, a sorcerer and Miranda, his daughter. The tempest that brought the newcomers to this island unveils a tempest of betrayal, secrets and love. ~ Lisa Christie

 

Mama Day by Gloria Naylor (1989) – This island post seemed like the perfect time to revisit a book that I read so very long ago and loved. This gem?  Mama Day – the tale of an island off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina that is part of neither, but whose pull is powerful even on those who leave – uses plain but powerful prose to create a memorable and engrossing novel.  Woven around the stories of a young couple – George and Cocoa who meet and love in New York City and Cocoa’s great-aunt Mama Day - Mama Day explores notions of family, community, and love, with a little voodoo sprinkled in.  Over twenty years after publication the book still resonates; as the Washington Post proclaimed in their review years ago – “This is a wonderful novel, full of spirit and sass and wisdom, and completely  realized.”  ~ Lisa Christie

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As part of our mission to promote authors, 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 “3 Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are 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 are excited to welcome cookbook writer Nancy Singleton Hachisu to the Book Jam. She’s the author of the newly published work Japanese Farm Food which tells stories and features recipes from her life on a rural farm in Japan. Hachisu has lived in that country for more than twenty years where she says she went “for the food but stayed for love.” Her full days are spent with her husband making tofu, plucking ducks, pickling vegetables, preparing noodles, and raising their two teenage sons. Glowing reviews for this beautiful and inspiring cookbook are pouring in from Alice Waters, Patricia Wells, and Micheal Rhulman. This is an event not to be missed.

Nancy Singleton Hachisu will read at the Bookstore on Tuesday, October 9th at 7 pm.  As always, reservations are encouraged. Just call (802) 649-1114 to reserve your spot or to order your signed copy of her book.

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

I read voraciously as a child and was most influenced by E. Nesbit and C.S. Lewis. As an adult I favored mystery novels until I embarked on a mission to regain my ability in French, Spanish, and Italian about 10 years ago. This time also coincided with ever-increasing difficulties in getting boxes of books bought and sent off to Japan. And thus began a period of watching movies rather than reading that helped me create a bubble sort of world around me in which I could hear my voice quite clearly. I suppose our way of life helped shape me into the author I am today.

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

Elizabeth David because I love her whimsy, practicality, and food sense.

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

Stacks of cookbooks…but they are not on my bedside table, they are piled up on the floor here and there around my room! And a book about learning to read Japanese through literature–I am woefully unskilled in my reading ability and need to force myself to step it up otherwise I will never cross the glass ceiling created by learning a language orally.

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