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Posts Tagged ‘On Writing’

Image result for images of halloweenWell, we had long ago planned a post for yesterday that dealt with scary books for Halloween (with a small shout out to voting). However, the tragic shooting in Pittsburgh on Saturday, and the pipe bombs sent last week, had us rethinking this as we went to post. It feels as if  entertainment from fake scary things may reduce the actual scary things occurring last week. So, we delayed a bit.

After some reflection, we are plunging ahead with some great recommendations of books for those of you needing some diversions through thrillers, mysteries, and some self-induced scares. We plunge ahead with a few caveats: 1) we know these books in no way reduce these tragedies, 2) our thoughts, best wishes, and some political actions are with Pittsburgh and the staff in all the offices who received scary mail last week, 3) anyone needing more contemplative reading may get some help from one of our previous posts – But the News, which we posted after the tragic events in Charlottesville in August 2017, and 4) an obvious statement this violence needs to end.

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Lethal White (A Cormoran Strike Novel) Cover ImageLethal White by Robert Galbraith (2018) – The newest instalment of Mr. Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike Detective series, has everything you loved from the first three – Mr. Strike’s complex life and personality, the moxy and romantic challenges of his smart once-sidekick and now-business partner Robin, and London. Fans of JK Rowling (aka Galbraith) will be thrilled as the page turning prose of Harry Potter continues in this series. Pick it up, dive in, and let its great quantity of well-paced pages entertain you for a bit. ~ Lisa Christie

Edgar Allan Poe Complete Tales and Poems Cover ImageEdgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems (2009). In honor of our scarily-themed Book Jam post, I pulled this complete collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s short poems and stories off the shelf (mind you, it’s heavy!). It is perhaps a must have for the robust home library – and if it’s not in yours, it is at least a title that a book lover should revisit at the time of year when a chill is in the air and the spirits return for a visit. My fingers immediately flipped to “The Tell Tale Heart,” a story about murder, guilt and madness that I was eager to reread. It had made a big impression on me as a sensitive 8th grader, when I was new to this author’s macabre sensibility. And, nearly 40 years later, it did not disappoint. It is just as disturbing, the narrator’s strange voice compelling me to hold the book at a slight distance, as if this could protect me from him. I love now, with a different perspective, to think not of Mr. Poe just as scary but also in his 19th century studio, brilliantly carving out a new American genre, writing about ravens, black cats, and sinister houses of Usher. It is completely worth a second – or first visit. ~ Lisa Cadow

The Haunting of Hill House Cover ImageThe Haunting of Hill House (and well almost anything) by Shirley Jackson  (1959) – Described as the greatest haunted house story of all times, Ms. Jackson’s novel of four seekers who visit a scary called Hill House and encounter what initially appears to just be unexplained phenomenon, but progresses to pure terror.  Ms. Jackson truly was a master of turning the ordinary into the chilling. As Stephen King praised, “[One of] the only two great novels of the supernatural in the last hundred years.” We love the fact Ms. Jackson was also a Vermonter. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The So Blue Marble Cover ImageThe So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes (1940 and 2018) – This slim book offers probably the spookiest opening chapter of any book I’ve read in awhile.  The every day matter of factness of the words contrasting the actions of the people just creeped me out. The rest of this short mystery swept me into the lives of the rich and famous in post WWI NYC. And while a bit campy, I enjoyed my time with them. If you are in the mood for a bit of NYC glamour, and/or some time travel back to the 1940s, pick this up.  Or as the New York Times Book Review stated, ”You will have to read [The So Blue Marble] for yourself, and if you wake up in the night screaming with terror, don’t say we didn’t warn you.” NOTE: We found this novel through the Passport to Crime and British Library Crime Classics reprints in a window display at the Norwich Bookstore. If you like this one, you can find many many more like it in these collections. ~ Lisa Christie

The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories Cover ImageThe Turn of the Screw and other ghost stories by Henry James (1898) – In this classic horror tale, a nanny becomes convinced her charges are being stalked by the supernatural.  It remains in print over 100 years later for a reason. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft Cover ImageThe entire Stephen King canon The Shining, It, The Body (assorted years) – Basically, just about anything Mr. King writes is guaranteed to scare you. And, if you are in the mood for a superb memoir, Mr. King’s On Writing remains one of our favorites. It truly changed the way we viewed his prose. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

And, as a reminder to EVERYONE to PLEASE VOTE NEXT WEEK, we close with a review from our friend and bookseller Carin Pratt – Fear, which offers a look at our current political climate which has truly become the scariest part of the news. And on that note, we again send prayers and wishes and probably most importantly a promise to be agents of hope, love, and change, to all those affected by Saturday’s bombing of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the mail bombs from last week.

Fear: Trump in the White House Cover ImageFear by Bob Woodward (2018) – If you read the Washington Post and/or the New York Times you may not find many surprises in this meticulously reported account of Trump in the White House. But in the aggregate, this portrayal of a dysfunctional, chaotic White House and a president whose attention span is non-existent, whose knowledge of policy, economics and foreign policy (i.e Why DO we have NATO?) is sparse, to say the least, and whose judgment and morals, well, let’s not go there — is devastating and scary. Fear indeed. – Reviewed by Carin Pratt

PS — SO, once again, PLEASE VOTE — no matter your preference, we really hope you all just VOTE.  And finally click here for some political inspiration from our home state to help us all survive these scary times. We promise you will love this clip, and we hope you enjoy some humorous words from Al Yankovic.

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imgres-2It is the season of Dads and Grads. And, we can think of no better gift to mark their special day(s) than a superb book. So to help you find the perfect gift for every special Dad or Grad in your life this June, we have created a short, but diverse, list of possibilities. (Note: Our picks for Dads from last year  – https://thebookjamblog.com/2013/06/11/june-10-dads-turn-books-for-fathers-day/ – still make great gifts too.)

God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (2015)— Yes, this is another book about WWII, but it is truly fabulous. Fathers will appreciate a superbly crafted story about a man as he becomes a war hero, lover, husband, father, grandfather, and finally senior citizen. History buffs will love the depictions of British air raids over Germany and the Blitz in London. Pilots and lovers of planes will appreciate the detailed descriptions of how WWII era planes worked. Grads will love that this is just a good story. Fans of Life After Life (this category includes the Book Jam Lisas) will love another look at Ursula, Teddy and the family from Fox Corner. This novel focuses on Teddy, a fighter pilot who gets a life in a future he never expected to have and is basically a book about a lovely man living his life in extraordinary times.  Please buy this for the Dads in your life, and then pick it up yourself to read at some point this summer. (Small disclaimer — It took about 60 pages for me to get into the rhythm of this novel; but I am so glad I stuck it out as the story, particularly the ending, has stayed with me long after closing the last page.) ~ Lisa Christie

H is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald (2014) — Readers, be ready to take flight with this brilliant 2014 Costa Book of the Year award winner. It was a bestseller in England and is now being hand sold as a favorite by indie booksellers in the United States. After MacDonald’s father dies unexpectedly, she embarks upon a journey of healing and discovery that begins with training a goshawk named Mabel. In truth, her avian journey began many years before with her childhood love of birds and falconry — but to train a goshawk! These are the mother of all birds: challenging, nervous, prone to tantrums, and requiring daily manning. Her focus turns to Mabel by necessity, but also as a way through her grief. In the process, she deepens her self-knowledge and also her respect and understanding of birds. She simultaneously leads the reader on a quest to better know the enigmatic TH White (who was a falconer and author of The Once and Future King).  H is for Hawk is nature writing at its best, leaving the reader turning the last page marvelling at the creatures with whom we share the world and yearning for our own healing encounter with the wild. ~Lisa Cadow

Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life (2015) — This book is for sports lovers, and anyone who has ever parented or coached a kid playing any sport of any kind.  The “Manifesto” expands upon a letter St. Louis Cardinal’s Manager Mike Matheny wrote to parents of a little league team he agreed to coach. The philosophy Mr. Matheny expressed in the letter outlined (among other things) his strongly held beliefs that authority should be respected, discipline and hard work rewarded, and humility considered a virtue. In this book he builds on that letter by offering a hopeful path beyond the (unfortunately) often typical path of poor behavior from sports parents, fans and leagues. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough (2015) — Books by Mr. McCullough are like comfort food – you know the style of the prose (plain-spoken, yet somehow soaring), the general premise (history), and that you will learn something. In this book, he takes on the Wright brothers. You may think you know all you need to know about The Wright Brothers from elementary school history – they invented the airplane, because of them Ohio and North Carolina fight over who was first in flight, and they owned a bicycle shop. But, you probably did not know they first gained recognition in France, that one of their first models had a canoe on bottom in case it landed in the ocean, and that their sister was brilliant too. A great gift for history buffs and anyone looking for a story of how two ordinary men accomplished a superbly extraordinary thing. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Can We Talk about Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation by Beverly Daniel Tatum (2008) — A perfect gift for the dads and grads who are news junkies or interested in social justice issues, or for any of us who are trying to make sense of today’s news about race. This collection of four essays by renowned psychologist and Spellman College President Dr. Tatum focuses on race in America. While each has a school-based slant, the questions they raise and the information they impart is important for anyone to consider as we navigate the recent news about race in America. Please note that though the pieces were written over seven years ago their wisdom and questions remain timely. ~ Lisa Christie

Good Prose by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd (2013) — Every once in awhile I pick up a book on how to write – favorites being Stephen King’s On Writing or Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. (Both King’s and Lamott’s books would be great gifts as well.) This “new to me” volume of advice joins those favorites. The authors’ relationship, their joint adventures together as editor and writer, and their love of a good story that is well-told, propel this clearly-written volume of advice on writing. This will make a great gift for any graduate (or Dad) who will be writing as they continue their education, any “would-be” writer, or honestly, any lover of well-written books. ~ Lisa Christie

And, a repeat review, but it is probably our favorite collection of essays about Dads/Men so we are OK with that.

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (2010) — One of our favorite collections of essays ever.  Reading this will make you appreciate dads and men.  It will also make you appreciate Mr. Chabon’s writing. And, it may make you laugh and cry a bit. Younger graduates might also enjoy this collection as many of the essays focus on the mistakes and triumphs of Mr. Chabon’s youth. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

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An email from one of our great friends in need of perfect books for her soon-to-be-High-School-Senior to read this summer led to this post.  Since this student is an avid and discriminating reader, she wanted well-written books. However, since this student’s summer plans include attending a challenging academic camp, she wanted our picks to be “fun” to read.

What follows is based upon the list we created for her.  Since we think it is pretty good list for anyone (adult and young adult alike) looking for good books to read this summer, we share it now with you.

Before we begin our reviews, we would like to note two things about this list. 1) Most of the titles were published years ago. We list them now because people currently in high school were too young for these novels when they initially appeared on bookstore shelves, and we don’t want them or anyone to miss a chance to read these titles. 2) Most of these picks, while selected for readers who are YA’s target audience, are not books that most publishers would label as YA. Two 2014 YA titles finish out our list for anyone looking for a purely YA read.

What Could Be Called “Coming of Age” Novels 

Zorro by Isabel Allende (2005).  While Ms. Allende is known for magic realism, this novel offers a more straightforward narrative than found in most of her books. Ms. Allende’s account of the legend begins with Zorro’s childhood and finishes with the hero. Have fun with this book. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell (2002) – A look at China and USA through the eyes of a young woman whose life is greatly affected her American father’s fascination with China. Not necessarily light, but truly a great, great “coming of age” book. We have been recommending this to men, women and young adults for years and have never had a disgruntled customer.  One all male book club declared it their best discussion book ever. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea (2005) – Mr. Urrea creates a history of Mexico as seen through the life of one of their saints (who happens to be one of his distant relatives). This saga, written in gorgeous and lyrical prose, shows a Mexico that many might otherwise miss. ~ Lisa Christie

Some Novels with an Adventurous Bent

Death Comes To Pemberley by PD James (2011) – This mystery revisits at the characters and places from Pride and Prejudice six years after Darcy and Elizabeth are married. Their lives are rambling along quite well until a murderer enters their realm. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Department Q mysteries by Jussi Adler Olsen (assorted years) – All the Department Q mysteries take place in Denmark. They all involve a lovable and unique cast of police detectives. They all teach you a bit about life in Scandinavia. They are all well-written and fun, with some gory details periodically inserted. ~ Lisa Christie

A More Serious Novel with International Overtones

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2001) – This well-written novel tracks the lives of partygoers when an event honoring a Japanese businessman visiting an embassy in an unnamed South American country goes terribly awry. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Some Non-Fiction Choices 

On Writing by Stephen King (2000) – His attempt to show people how to write well, is really an autobiography about a writing life. Well-written, fascinating look at an American author that happens to have some good tips on getting better at writing. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda (2011) – This short book follows an Afghan refugee through the countries he must cross, and shows what he must do to survive and achieve political asylum. The fact that he was ten when his journey began, and he did it all alone, makes it a truly thought-provoking read. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor at Little Big Horn by Larry Colter (2001) – An amazing tale of a gifted young basketball player named Sharon LaForge. Mr. Colter follows her and her team as they navigate the challenges of their basketball season and their home lives on an Native American reservation. I still remember passages thirteen years after reading it the first time. ~ Lisa Christie

Some Actual YA Titles For Young Adults (and adults – let’s be honest here)

Like No Other by Una LaMarche (July 2014) – West Side Story with an African-American as the male lead and a Hasidic girl as the female lead.  Set in modern-day Brooklyn, this tale explores the feelings one’s first true love brings, and what it means to make your own way into the world — even if it requires navigating respecting one’s parents while rebelling from their rules. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (May 2014) – I can not say much about the plot as it will ruin the book.  But this story of a privileged family summering on an island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard is a page-turner. The plot revolves around decisions leading up to a tragedy, and then focuses on how the decisions made after the tragedy affect the family, particularly the 18-year-old narrator. ~ Lisa Christie

This list is not meant to be a one size fits all recommendation.  If you have trouble matching the young adults in your life to any of these books, please send us a comment and we will try to find a book to meet your needs.

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