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Archive for the ‘Historical Fiction Buffs’ Category

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Ahhh travel … Honestly, when we are not doing it, we are dreaming about it. When we are not dreaming about it, we are reading as much as we can about far away places. So for today, we review some of our favorite books for inspiring future travel and/or for taking you away without leaving home.

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Brazilian Adventure Cover ImageBrazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming (1933) – In 1932, Peter Fleming, brother of Ian Fleming (yes, the James Bond Fleming) traded in his editor job for an adventure  — taking part in a search for missing English explorer Colonel P.H. Fawcett. Colonel Fawcett was lost, along with his son and another companion, while searching Brazil for the Lost City of Z (a trip recently memorialized by a Hollywood movie). With meager supplies, faulty maps, and packs of rival newspapermen on their trail, Fleming and company hiked, canoed, and hacked through 3,000 miles of wilderness and alligator-ridden rivers in search of Fawcett’s fate. Mr. Fleming tells the tale with vivid descriptions and the famous British wry humor, creating a truly memorable memoir and possibly one of the best travel books of all time.

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey Cover ImageThe River of Doubt by Candice Millard (2006) – After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, President Theodore Roosevelt decided to take on the most punishing physical challenge he could find — the first descent of an unmapped tributary of the Amazon (River, not the retail behemoth). Like Fleming, in the previously reviewed book, Roosevelt’s cast of adventurers is ill-prepared for the hardships ahead. Almost immediately, they lose their canoes and supplies in the whitewater rapids. This loss is followed by starvation, Indian attacks, disease, drowning, and murder; Roosevelt was brought to the brink of suicide. This nonfiction tale held my then 10-year-old and 13 year-old boys and their father in rapt attention as our family read-aloud when we were privileged to explore the Amazon River portion of my youngest’s native Colombia.

A Moveable Feast Cover ImageMoveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (1960) – We now move from South America to Europe with Mr. Hemingway’s classic memoir of his time in Paris. Read it to capture what Paris meant to American ex-pats in the 1920s. Or, read it just to enjoy fabulous writing and a glimpse into history. This book vividly renders the lives of Hemingway, his first wife Hadley, and their son Jack. It also includes irreverent portraits of their fellow travellers, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ford Maddox Ford, as well as insight into Hemingway’s own early experiments with his writing.

Burial Rites Cover ImageBurial Rites by Hannah Kent (2013) – Based upon the true story of Agnes, the last woman executed in Iceland, Ms. Kent vividly renders Agnes’s life from the point where she is sent to an isolated farm to await execution for killing her former master (or did she?). While the people Agnes encounters are memorable, perhaps most memorable is the way Ms. Kent makes Iceland a character too. As with anything written by the incredible writer Halldor Laxness, Burial Rites is for anyone planning a trip to this spectacular country, wanting to go there in their imagination, or wanting to revisit a trip they took there long ago.

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing and the living of life, 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 during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to both attend these special author events and read their books.

It's Always the Husband Cover Image

Today, we feature Michele Campbell and her thriller It’s Always the Husband. Ms. Campbell, a New York native and resident of the Upper Valley, has taught law at the Vermont Law School and served as a federal prosecutor in New York City.  Ms. Campbell is a graduate of Harvard University and Stanford Law School.

Ms. Campbell will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, May  31st to discuss It’s Always the Husband. Reservations are recommended as they expect seats to “sell out”. Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to reserve your seat.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond Cover ImageLittle Women Cover ImageThe Great Gatsby Cover Image

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

As a girl, I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott on repeat. I would literally finish the last page of these books and start over with the first. Both books had strong female protagonists who struggled to navigate the stifling expectations set for girls in their time and place, and had loving yet complicated relationships with their female family members. In high school, The Great Gatsby, with its impeccable prose and focus on issues of social class, caught my imagination. These three books shaped my interest in writing crime stories that explore issues of women, society and social class.

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

Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin are two of the greatest books written in my lifetime, and I’ve read them both numerous times. She is astonishingly prolific, and I would love to ask her about the glorious span of her career – how she writes, how she manages so many projects, and how she moves, seemingly effortlessly, between genres. Ultimately, I just think she would be inspiring to talk to. She’s a visionary, a feminist, someone with a dark sense of humor and refreshingly strong opinions. I love her.

The Gunslinger Cover ImageThe Woman in Cabin 10 Cover ImageChronicle of a Death Foretold Cover ImageWhere It Hurts Cover ImageQuiet Neighbors Cover ImageThe God of Small Things Cover ImageA Passage to India Cover Image

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

How much space do I have to tell you about all the wonderful books in my TBR pile? Like many writers, I’m a book hoarder. Between my actual, physical nightstand and my e-reader, I have enough books to keep me busy for months, if not years, to come. Some current notables: The Gunslinger by Stephen King, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Where It Hurts by Reed Farrell Coleman, Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and A Passage to India by E.M. Forster.

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Ok, let’s be honest – this won’t really be last minute for most of us. In reality, this list of superb possibilities for Mother’s Day gift giving will be just in time, as most of us have yet to wrap up Sunday’s gift giving occasion.

So, for all of you looking for a great Mother’s Day gift, or something good to read yourself, here we go:

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FC9781583335741.JPGOh She Glows Every Day by Angela Liddon (2016) – If your mother likes to cook veggies (or if you like to cook  veggies for your mother!), consider adding this plant-based recipe book to your shelf. Oh She Glows Every Day  is bursting with fresh, flavorful vegan ideas. Don’t be alarmed by the “v-word”: every dish in this collection tastes amazing and doesn’t leave eaters missing meat at all. These two mom chef reviewers particularly love the “Thai Crunch Salad” (Liddon’s almond butter dressing and cast-iron skillet tofu are now staples), the “Guacamole and Black Bean Loaded Sweet Potatoes” (how filling, how healthy, how easy!), and the “Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Coconut Bacon” (we love the addition of maple syrup to this dish — how Vermont!). This book, quite simply put, is VEGGIE-LICIOUS! ~ Lisa Cadow 

Celine Cover ImageCeline by Peter Heller (2017) – So, maybe your mom is not a PI, or hiding the fact she gave birth to a child when she was 15, meaning you have an older sibling somewhere. Maybe she is not the daughter of a woman who fled the Nazis and then ended up in an long lasting affair with the most famous admiral of WWII, but your mom is your mom and she really does deserves a good book for Mother’s Day. And, if you also read this novel exploring the complicated life of its main character Celine, it might provide a great way to discuss life’s decisions, and possibly discover some things she hasn’t yet told you. ~ Lisa Christie

The Women in the Castle Cover ImageThe Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (2017) – A compassionate, yet tough look at how Germans allowed the Nazi party to take hold with such devastating consequences for all.  This novel follows three German women before, during, and after WWII as they face the consequences of their personal choices. The story questions what it means to survive and, ultimately, what it takes to move on with forgiveness when the unimaginable occurs. (Ms. Shattuck used to live nearby and shop at the Norwich Bookstore so we love this chance to highlight her work.)~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Trials of Apollo, Book Two: The Dark Prophecy Cover ImageThe Dark Prophecy: Book Two of the Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan (2017) -Why are we including a children’s book in a Mother’s Day gift post? Well, this latest Rick Riordan adventure novel, when given to the children in your life, will buy you hours of peace and quiet as they consume yet another page-turning novel about demi-gods. In this second installment of the Trials of Apollo series, Apollo remains trapped in an acne infested, muscle-lacking teenage body, and my son’s favorite Riordan character – Leo – is back, making him very happy. You are welcome; and, enjoy the peace! Be sure to give this to a busy mom to offload on her brood, allowing her to enjoy some peace too. ~ Lisa Christie

We Should All Be Feminists Cover ImageWe Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014) – Yes, we have recommended this multiple times (and be warned will probably recommend it again for Father’s Day), but this brief treatise of why men and women should be proud to be feminists remains important. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Porn for New Moms Cover ImagePorn for New Moms by Susan Anderson (2008) – An oldie, but humorous goodie. For moms (new and experienced) who just need some laughs. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Once again, we celebrated books, reading, and the power of youth last week at Vermont’s Thetford Academy (TA). The students’ and teachers’ picks for this latest BOOK BUZZ (the student version of the Book Jam’s Pages in the Pub) were eclectic and superb. We hope you enjoy reading from their list as much as we enjoyed hearing them passionately convince the audience why their book selections just had to be read.

We thank the presenters for their time, their enthusiasm and the list of books they generated. Their support made BOOK BUZZ a success. Bonus – thanks to the generosity of the Norwich Bookstore, the event raised money for the Thetford Academy Library.

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With great pleasure, we now list all twenty books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter. You’ll notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier. We hope you have fun looking, and that you enjoy reading about their picks from the comfort of your computer/iPad/phone using direct links to each selection. And now, our superb presenters’ picks for summer reading, with their bios at the end.

Miss Rumphius: Story and Pictures Cover Image

BOOKS YOU WOULD GIVE TO YOUNGER YOU

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (1982). Selected by Hannah – For those who wish to dream.

Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball Cover ImageThe Haters Cover Image

BOOKS ABOUT ROAD TRIPS TO TAKE ON ROAD TRIPS

Where Nobody Knows Your Name by John Feinstein (2014). Selected by Mr. Deffner – Everybody wants to make the Majors.

The Haters by Jesse Andrews (2016). Selected by Ms. OwenEscape band camp, find trouble, self. 

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FAVORITE BOOKS STARRING ANIMALS

House of a Million Pets by Ann Hodgman (2007). Selected by Hannah – Humorous tale for passing rainy day.

Scythe Cover ImageAmerica Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't [With 3-D Glasses] Cover Image

BOOKS TO READ ALOUD WITH A FLASHLIGHT/IN A TENT/AROUND A CAMPFIRE

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe Book 1) by Neal Schusterman (2016). Selected by Ms. Owen – No one dies unless you kill them.

America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert (2012). Selected by Malcolm – Clever, relevant, and hilariously scary. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

The Pearl Thief Cover ImageTrue Letters from a Fictional Life Cover ImageJane Eyre Cover Image

PROTAGANISTS WE LOVE

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein (2017). Selected by Lisa – How people become heroes, WWII History. (Lisa also recommended Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012) and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (2013). The Pearl Thief is the prequel to these two other books by Wein.)

True Letters From A Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan (2016). Selected by MalcolmWryly humorous coming-out story set in Upper Valley.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847). Selected by Hannah – For young souls finding/justifying their strength.
A Collection of Essays Cover ImageNature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World Cover Image

NON-FICTION THAT YOU CAN’T PUT DOWN OR BOOKS FOR THOSE WHO PREFER TRUE STORIES

A Collection of Essays by George Orwell. Selected by Malcolm – Intriguing and darkly insightful retrospective.

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman (2015). Selected by Ms. Owen – Heartfelt renderings gives hours of leafing.

City of Thieves Cover ImageSalt to the Sea Cover Image

BOOKS THAT DO A GREAT JOB TEACHING HISTORY

City of Thieves by David Benioff (2008). Selected by Mr. Deffner – A dozen eggs or your life. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016). Selected by Ms. Owen – Refugees flee WWII carrying secrets. (Previously reviewed by the Book Jam.)

The Hate U Give Cover ImageNineteen Minutes Cover Image

BOOKS YOU WOULD ASSIGN TO GROWNUPS AS REQUIRED

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017). Selected by Mr. Deffner – Police shooting’s effect on a family. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (2007). Selected by Hannah – Entraps you with thought-encoding thriller.

We Should All Be Feminists Cover Image

BOOKS TO GIVE FRIENDS FOR THEIR BIRTHDAYS

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014). Selected by Lisa – Concise, enlightening case for feminism’s importance. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

Montana 1948 Cover ImageWhy Not Me? Cover Image

BOOKS FOR FRIENDS WHO DON’T LIKE TO READ

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson (1993). Selected by Mr. Deffner – Moral dilemma with two you love.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (2015). Selected by Malcolm – Inspiring, perspective-changing, and hilarious memoir.

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OUR FABULOUS PRESENTERS

  • Hannah loves reading, (especially Jane Austen) has a fondness for bees, and aspires to be a nurse. She is a junior at Thetford Academy.
  • Malcolm’s favorite things to do are run, read, write, and both watch and create films. He loves distance running and proudly self-identifies as a film nerd. He is seventeen years old and attends Thetford Academy.
  • Ms. Owen runs the TA library and most importantly helps many, many students find the perfect book to read next – even if they aren’t sure they want to read anything.
  • Mr. Deffner coaches cross-country and teaches English at TA when he is not taking his sons on road trips or basketball games.
  • Lisa Christie is the co-founder and co-blogger of the Book Jam. When not coordinating BOOK BUZZ or Pages in the Pub, she is usually reading.

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Well, March arrived in Vermont like a lion and honestly appears to be leaving as one as well. The political news is still divisive and disturbing. And, for a variety of reasons, both Book Jam Lisas have been reading a lot of serious books. So to break out a bit, today we review a bunch of mysteries/thrillers in the sincere hope that reading some “just for fun” books will help us all smile more often as March becomes April. Enjoy!

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August Snow Cover ImageAugust Snow by Stephen Mack Jones (Feb 2017) – I so hope that in real life there is someone like August Snow – a half black/half Mexican, ex-cop with a strong sense of justice and neighborhood  loyalty – looking out for Detroit. The hope this book expresses for Detroit weaves throughout the narrative, and Mr. Jones’s descriptions of Detroit’s decline and partial resurgence make the city an actual character in this thriller. Yes, Mr. Snow makes many mistakes, and wow, by the end of this tale, his body count is way too high for my tastes. However, few books take place in today’s Detroit; please enjoy this one! ~ Lisa Christie

The Bat Cover ImageThe Bat by Jo Nesbo (2013) – Somehow, we missed the first Detective Harry Hole mystery. Luckily, we rectified that last week. What fun!  Even if you have enjoyed the other novels in this detective series already, going back to the first mystery and watching him solve the murder of a lovely Norwegian ex-pat living Down Under, is somehow the perfect antidote for healthcare news. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

IQ Cover ImageIQ by Joe Ide (2017) – This debut features a great protagonist and a great sidekick whose incredibly complicated lives combine for a great plot.  Set in modern day LA and following a man whose amazing brain lay dormant for awhile but has awakened as a solver of others’ problems — a la Sherlock Holmes (who the author recognizes in this acknowledgements), this book marks the start of a great series. We are ready for book two and thank Carin Pratt for pointing us in the direction of Mr. Ide. ~ Lisa Christie 

Closed Casket: A New Hercule Poirot Mystery Cover ImageClosed Casket by Sophie Hannah and Agatha Christie (2017) – Agatha Christie writes again. OK, so someone else writes for her, but the oh so British atmosphere and Hercule Poirot are pretty much the same. Have fun! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

The Whistler Cover ImageThe Whistler by John Grisham (2016) – Sometimes I just need the comfort of a reliable storyteller, and with Mr. Grisham I almost always get that. But, I always get a tale of people trying to do the right thing in spite of the odds against them. And honestly in 2017, I really, really need more of that. So, read this for a page-turner, but then think about it as a way to begin working for and fighting for what you believe is important. We can all use more of that lately. (Oh yes, the plot — in this Grisham Lacy Stoltz, an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, gets in trouble when taking on corruption on the Florida bench.) ~ Lisa Christie 

FC9780312426132The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin (2006). Take a trip back in time to Istanbul  circa 1836 to meet intriguing Investigator Yashim. Filed under the category of “How The Heck Did We Miss This Book?”, this mystery (the first in a  series) is full of obscure historical references, complex characters, and wonderful food imagery. The reader is transported back to 19th century Ottoman Empire and can truly feel her/himself walking by the donkey carts and spice vendors of Istanbul while she/he works alongside Yashim to solve a mystery involving a series of murders that threaten the sultan’s political court. Besides being a talented detective, Yashim is also an excellent cook. He is also a eunich. Utterly fascinating, this book is perfect for history buffs, fans of literary mysteries, or the traveler looking for the perfect book to take on an upcoming trip to Turkey. If your curious about the cookbook that Jason Goodwin published in 2016, listen here: Yashim Cooks Istanbul ~ ~ Lisa Cadow  

In This Grave Hour Cover ImageIn This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear (2017) – Another Maisie Dobbs mystery finds Maisie on a case involving Belgium refugees just as Prime Minister Chamberlin declares Britian at war with Germany. Ms. Winspear has definitely gotten Maisie out of her “please get on with it already” phase of incredible self-analysis to again using her honed introspection to help others. Enjoy this look at the UK as WWII begins. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

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Over two Saturday evenings in April during an event called Tables of Content, generous friends of the Norwich Public Library – our local library, will host dinners in their homes to raise money for our superb librarians and the historic Vermont building they inhabit. Each dinner is based on a book the hosts selected as the theme for their dinner. Adding a bit of mystery to the event, dinner guests choose their dinner assignment by the book selections — the location and hosts are revealed only after books and guests have been matched.

How does this relate to books for you to read?  Well, the event offers a diverse group of hosts, and an eclectic selection of books to read. There is great fiction, some nonfiction about doctors and the Israeli-Palestine conflict, as well as a memoir or two. The books they selected will provide hours of inspired reading no matter what your reading preferences. So, today we share their selections, accompanied by the hosts’ brief review of why they picked the book that they did. We also, as always, link all the books to our fabulous local bookstore – The Norwich Bookstore; each link provides access to more information and published reviews about each of the Tables of Content books. If you live near Norwich, we hope you can participate in this amazing event. And, no matter your location, happy reading!

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The Dinners on Saturday April 1, 2017

Born to Run Cover ImageBorn to Run by Bruce Springsteen (2016) – A memoir by Bruce Springsteen – winner of twenty Grammy awards, Kennedy Center Honors recipient, and an Academy Award – provides the starting point for this dinner’s conversations. We will begin with a discussion of music, and end, well, who knows where. If you wish to critique Bruce as inadequate when compared with Baroque composers or the Beatles, you are welcome. If your heart belongs to Patti Smith, that other rock star turned best-selling author, we’d love to hear from you. Whatever your interest in music, you are welcome to join us for a night in which “The Boss” will be the entry point for discussions about music and life. Food? Well, as of press time, we are uncertain about the menu, but it will definitely be “Born in the USA.” Who knows? We might even go a little crazy and hire a band to entertain us.

Homegoing Cover ImageHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) – Homegoing is an amazing story about two half-sisters born on the Gold Coast of Africa during the height of the slavery trade; one was sold into slavery, the other was married off to a British slaver. In her debut novel, Yaa Gyasi interweaves the very different paths that the sisters and their descendants follow. Join us for a fun evening of African cuisine and stimulating conversations.

Lunatic Heroes Cover ImageLunatic Heroes by C. Anthony Martignetti (2012) – Join us for a homemade Italian feast as we discuss Lunatic Heroes, a collection of short stories detailing the New England boyhood of the late Italian-American author C. Anthony Martignetti. You’ve likely never heard of this book, but your hosts (and Neil Gaiman) assure you that reading it is time well spent. Martignetti casts an unflinching and insightful eye on his dysfunctional family and details the trials of growing up Italian-American in 1950s New England. Although Martignetti looks back with disgust on what his family tried to serve him for dinner (examples include pigs feet, congealed blood pie, and baby cow stomachs), your hosts will stick to more palatable and better known examples of Italian food. Martignetti, who became a psychotherapist, would no doubt encourage you to bring stories of your own crazy extended family to share over some Barolo.

Steve Jobs Cover ImageSteve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (2011) – It is common knowledge that Steve Jobs was not a nice person. It is also well known that he was one of the most important entrepreneurs and visionaries of our lifetime. Walter Isaacson follows Steve Job’s life from birth to death in the captivating biography, Steve Jobs. Isaacson spent years interviewing and gathering information from over 100 of the closest to most obscure people in Jobs’ life, capturing his best, worst and every moment in between. It is no small feat that over 50% of households in the United States have one or more Apple devices. That being said, does Steve Jobs’ success forgive his behavior? Where would we be without him today and what would I do without my iPhone?! So take a break from your Apple devices and come join us and “Think Different” for a dinner discussion on the genius behind Apple.

Dinners on Saturday April 8, 2017
A Gentleman in Moscow Cover ImageA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2016) – Set in the early 1920’s Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in a grand hotel for writing a seditious poem. Deprived of his extravagant lifestyle, this gracious gentleman chooses to live a meaningful and full life despite his confinement. We’ll leave behind the current political quagmire as we enjoy a Russian-inspired meal fit for an aristocrat.

God's Kingdom Cover ImageGod’s Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher (2015) – Howard Frank Mosher was one of Vermont’s most prolific writers. HIs recent death is a loss to all who love to read. Throughout his life, Mr. Mosher chronicled the Northeast Kingdom, and its special way of life, in his multiple novels. In his last book before his death, God’s Kingdom, he explores the Kennison family and its many complexities. Although fiction, the “Kingdom” remains a place apart from the rest of Vermont. Mr. Mosher gives us intimate insights into this special place. A French inspired, Spring Vermont dinner will be served!

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East Cover ImageThe Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan (2007) – The Lemon Tree provides readers with a personalized account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In recounting the decades long friendship of a Jewish settler and a Palestinian refugee, the book explores the passionate issues on both sides. Come enjoy a delicious dinner with your neighbors in what is sure to be an evening full of lively discussion.

Second Suns: Two Trailblazing Doctors and Their Quest to Cure Blindness, One Pair of Eyes at a Time Cover ImageSecond Suns by David Relin (2016 ) – In Second Suns, David Relin tells the amazing story about two doctors (one Nepalese; one American) and how their lives merged with a common goal to rid the world of preventable blindness. Their relatively simple surgical procedure has changed the lives of many in the Himalaya region and in parts of Africa. These doctors are also the co-founders of the Himalayan Cataract Project, which is currently a semi-finalist for a $100M grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Please join us for some tasty Nepalese food, drinks and some engaging conversation about these two incredible humans and the good they are doing in our world.

The Sympathizer: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) Cover ImageThe Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015) – We have selected The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, a first novel for this writer and the Pulitzer Prizer winner for 2016. It’s a book to be read slowly and relished. The artistry of the prose lingers intriguingly even while the plot and themes discomfort. Food is a minor theme of the book and we will be serving Vietnamese and 1970’s American classics to fully savor this passage: “We did our best to conjure up the culinary staples of our culture, but since we were dependent on Chinese markets our food had an unacceptably Chinese tinge, another blow in the gauntlet of our humiliation that left us with the sweet-and-sour taste of unreliable memories, just correct enough to the evoke the past, just wrong enough to remind us that the past was forever gone, missing along with the proper variety, subtlety, and complexity of our universal solvent, fish sauce.”

When Breath Becomes Air Cover ImageWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016) – When Breath Becomes Air is an incredibly eloquent and beautifully written memoir based on the life, and death, of Paul Kalanithi. This brilliant thirty-six year old neurosurgeon was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer just as he was about to complete a decade of training to become a neurosurgeon, and as he approached becoming a father. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? Take a break from the political discussions and come prepared to enjoy a delicious and life-affirming dinner of food and wine among friends and neighbors over vibrant conversation in celebration of our moments here on earth.

THANK YOU and Bon Appetit!

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Well, last week was quite the week for politics in the USA. Our first Black President vacated the White House after eight years of service. Our new President was inaugurated. And, millions marched on Saturday in rallies in DC, many state capitals, and cities throughout the world to remind our new administration that inclusiveness remains important — and that over half the US population is women.

So today, we shine the pink spotlight on books that will help to remind us all what is at stake. We have selected several titles that include short manifestos (Adichie), speculative fiction (Atwood), a turn-of-the-20th century heroine (Chopin), and a comedienne’s memoir (Moran) that reminds us that (still) “there’s never been a better time to be a woman.”images.jpg

A Room of One's Own Cover ImageA Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929) -It is our intent to read every book that is reviewed on this site. In this case, we make a slight exception because only one of us has read it and this reading occurred years ago, possibly most importantly years before she could understand the importance of a “room of one’s own” as every room she inhabited was hers — she was so very, very single. In this collection of essays, Wolfe essentially argues that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” She asserts that females cannot be a part of the literary conversation if they do not have the freedom and autonomy to write. Woolf also highlights the importance of education for women and their tenuous place in society without it. Though only one of us has had the opportunity to delve into this very, very important work, after this weekend the other Lisa has placed it at the top of her pile. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Handmaid's Tale Cover ImageThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985) – This work of speculative fiction has never once been out of print since it was first published over thirty years ago. The topics it tackles are so important and the construct so fascinating that directors have made in to a movie, an opera, and even a television series. It is set in a dystopian future New England where women have been stripped of their rights after a new government assumes power. Told through the eyes of Offred, a handmaid (the class of women assigned in this new society for reproductive purposes), Atwood explores the nature of power, fanaticism, resistance, and hanging on to hope in the face of great obstacles. ~ Lisa Cadow

We Should All Be Feminists Cover ImageWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014) – This gem of a book emerged from a speech by Ms. Adichie in which she outlines a twenty-first century view of feminism, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. In doing so, she succinctly and beautifully makes the case why we should all be feminists – feminism benefits all of us no matter our gender.  Read it; give it; live it. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Awakening and Selected Stories Cover ImageThe Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899) – In this slim, ground breaking work of fiction published at the end of the 1800’s, Chopin introduces us to Edna Pontellier, a white mother and wife from the South who is deeply unsatisfied with her life. When Edna falls in love outside of her marriage, she begins to ask new questions and push new boundaries alarming those around her.  It is hard to remember that this book was published before Woolfe, Wharton, and Welty started writing because its style is so modern, the subjects it tackles so ahead of its time. ~ Lisa Cadow

The Color Purple Cover Image The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982) – A book so important and complicated it won both the Pulitzer and National Book Award, and inspired a Broadway Musical. This compassionate novel, focusing on the lives of African American women in the 1930s, shows how two sisters one in the American South and one in Africa sustain their love across time, distance, and hardships. It garnered glowing reviews such as one from The New York Times Book Review,”intense emotional impact . . . Indelibly affecting . . . Alice Walker is a lavishly gifted writer,” and has frequently been the target of censors. ~ Lisa Christie

How to Be a Woman Cover ImageHow To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran (2011) – We end this list with humor because laughter and empathy help all conversations. Every sentence in this raucous, side-splitting book offers exquisite insight into subjects such as women’s shoes, Germaine Greer, strident feminism, motherhood, handbags, hair styles, pornography, surviving puberty, and making it through dating with your self-worth intact — in sum, how to be a woman. Moran has much to offer women as they reflect on their own journeys, and those of their daughters. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie (excerpted from review from Book Jam Holiday Gift Guide 2012).
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