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Every year the annual Oscar broadcasts honors movies, but inadvertently it also honors books, because many movies find their inspiration in literature. This year was no exception. So as the 2016 Oscar buzz fades, we review some of the books behind two of this year’s Oscar nominated movies, as well as a book or three we think would make great movies (you are welcome Hollywood).

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Brooklyn by Colm Toiban (2009) This film received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is one of the rare examples of a movie that is as good as the book — though, at times, it is notably different. Brooklyn is a coming of age story about a girl, Eilis, who leaves Ireland post World War II to travel to New York for better prospects. She arrives alone, leaving behind her beloved sister, Rose, her mother and brothers. Brave, smart Eilis carves out a life for herself and even finds a beau in sweet Tony before tragedy calls her unexpectedly back to Ireland. Brooklyn is a complicated love story, one that also paints one of the most poignant pictures of homesickness and a rough transatlantic journey that we have ever read. It is definitely a book that will stay with the reader and generate plenty of discussion for lucky book groups that have yet to select it. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Room by Emma Donoghue (2010). There’s now way around it, the concept behind this novel sounds awfully depressing: a woman and her five year old son son are held captive in one room (the mother for seven years and the son since his birth). The mother, however, with her grit and creativity, makes the entire experience an adventure to preserve some semblance of her son’s childhood, as well as her own sanity. Somehow, the book leaves the reader feeling hopeful. Well-written, suspenseful and worth recommending to friends looking for a “good read”. The movie received four Oscar nods, including best picture, Actress in a Leading Role (SHE WON), Directing, and Adapted Screenplay. NOTE: Last reviewed on the Bookjam in October 2015 as a book we would (actually) reread if we had the time. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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And now a few that we think should become movies (and as an unintended bonus would help make the Oscar contenders a bit less white – a very good outcome in our vision).

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward (2013) – This coming of age memoir shows what it is like to grow up smart, poor, black, and female in America. Ms. Ward begins with a two year period of time, shortly after she graduated college, during which five boys who she grew up with along the Mississippi Coast experienced violent deaths. (Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath also play a role in this drama.) Her prose illuminates these dead young men and the people who loved/still love them; it also exposes the people behind the statistics that almost one in ten young black men are in jail, and that murder is the greatest killer of black men under the age of twenty-four. And while the material is difficult, the memoir is not; it is insightful, introspective, beautifully written, and important. At some point Ms. Ward states that the series of deaths is “a brutal list, in its immediacy and its relentlessness, and it’s a list that silences people. It silenced me for a long time.” We are glad she found her voice and told her story. And, we truly hope to see it on a big screen soon. ~ Lisa Christie

Vida by Patricia Engel (2010) – This collection of linked stories would make a great movie about lives lived between two countries — in this case, Colombia and the USA (mostly New Jersey and Miami). This book follows Sabina, a second generation Colombian American, as she navigates life — a life in which nothing truly terrible or amazing ever happens, but somehow makes a compelling read. Collectively, the stories outline a coming of age tale we can all relate to, whether from a recent immigrant family or not. This collection was Ms. Engel’s debut, and it was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Fiction Award and Young Lions Fiction Award; and a Best Book of the Year by NPR, among other awards. We hope those accolades will convince you to try it, and will encourage someone in Hollywood to bring it to the big screen. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For those of you who prefer Romantic Comedies for your movie enjoyment, we reviewed this next book – Eight Hundred Grapes – as part of our 2015 end of summer reading picks. We thought it would be a good movie then, and we stand by that now. (Keeping with our theme of picks that would make films less white, we challenge the producers to cast Asians, Latinos, African Americans, Indians, Native Americans, or other ethnic groups in some of the roles or as directors, best boys, or grips or…) NOTE: Apparently we do pretty well when picking books that should also be movies, we just discovered that shortly after we posted our review, FOX optioned this book for film. Coincidence? We think not.

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave (2015) – The title refers to the number of grapes required to make a bottle of wine. The story revolves around a Sonoma, California vineyard and the family who has tended it for decades. The novel launches with the narrator, a successful LA lawyer with a lovely British architect for a fiance, sitting, inappropriately dressed, in her brothers’ bar after discovering there is more to her fiance than she believed. When she retreats to her family’s vineyard to think, she learns her fiance is not the only one with secrets. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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On April 30th, we held our first “Pages in the Pub,”  an event designed to bring together independent booksellers, literary bloggers, public librarians, and book lovers for an evening of talking about great titles. We gathered at a local inn, sipped wine, and turned pages all with the goal of raising money for our public library.

We are pleased to inform you that we oversold and packed guests into The Norwich Inn that evening. More than 60 people attended (even though we had limited it to 50)  and we raised over $500 for the Norwich Pubic Library.

Presenters for our first “Pages in the Pub” included: Superb Norwich Bookstore Booksellers, Carin Pratt and Penny McConnel, Lucinda Walker – the amazing director of the Norwich Public Library – and our own Lisa Cadow of The Book Jam, with bonus books presented by Lisa Christie, also of The Book Jam, whose official role during the evening was to act as moderator.

For those of you unable to join us, a recap of the selections from each presenter is included below – along with a their own six word review. Why six words? Because we wanted to just whet your appetites and then have you research and read more for yourselves. Plus if we went any longer, we’d run out of space!

And don’t worry, if you must have more information right away, each title is linked to an independent bookstore’s review.

Carin Pratt

Carin, a new Vermont resident, sells books at the Norwich Bookstore after serving for twenty years as Executive Producer of CBS’s Face the Nation – yes, THAT Face the Nation.  We think that’s mighty impressive – but more importantly,  she’s a lovely person who we are privledged to know.  And, we really enjoyed her picks for Pages in the Pub.:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life death and hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo – nonfiction (2012) – Mumbai slums tragedy. Not beautiful. Great.

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw – fiction (2012) – Girl dies. How do survivors deal?

The Obriens by Peter Behrens – fiction (2012) – Man, marriage, family. Compelling, tragic saga.

Lisa Cadow

Lisa is one of the Lisas behind the Book Jam blog. She is also the founder and Chief Crepe officer of Vermont Crepe and Waffle, which is now moving into its busy fifth season with the opening of our local farmers markets.  Her crepes are fantastic and her book picks are superb and diverse – enjoy!

Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka fiction (2012)- Wartime Japanese Brides. New Lives. Poetic.

Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson –fiction (2011) – Despite turmoil, Nigerian girl learns midwifery.

Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton (2012) – Female Restaurateur with MFA writes spicy memoir.

Lucinda Walker

Lucinda is the talented  librarian for our town of Norwich.  She is truly a treasure and we are so glad she offered her gifts to our town.   Her picks are fun and thoughtful. Have a great time reading them.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechtel – nonfiction (2006) – What makes our parents tick? Graphic.

The Tower, the Zoo & the Tortoise by Julia Stuart – fiction (2010) – Quirky and sweet. A love story.

Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham- fiction (1944) – Bohemian, Post WWI, Paris, Soul-Searching & Snobs.

Penny McConnel

Penny is the co-founder and co-owner of the Norwich Bookstore.  When the Lisas of the Book Jam grow up, we want to be her.  She chose “oldie but goodies” to discuss. So pick up her selections and enjoy some contemporary classics.

Disturbances in the Field by Lynn Sharon Schwartz – fiction (1983) – Philosophy, friends, music, marriage, NYC.

Stoner by John Williams – fiction (1965) – Beautifully written life of sensitive professor.

Any Human Heart by William Boyd –fiction (2003) – Fictionalized biography of interesting worldly man.

BONUS PICKS – because you can never have too many good books

Lisa Cadow’s bonus round

Stones in the River by Ursula Hegi – fiction (1996) – Nazis. Outsider heroine. German village. Astounding.

Lisa Christie

Lisa is the other Lisa of the Book Jam. She was the founding Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and subsequently served as Executive Director of Everybody Wins! USA, placing children’s literacy dear to her heart.  Her picks are eclectic and involve places far away.  Happy travels.

In One Person by John Irving – fiction (2012) – Bisexual boy. Colorful family. Life unfolds.

The Terror by  Dan Simmonsmystery (2007)- Real Arctic Shipwreck. Everyone Dies. Why?

Vida by Patricia Engel – connected short stories (2010) – Colombian immigrants in Jersey. Teen matures.

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2010 Holiday Gift Giving (Click to Listen) or download http://www.box.net/files#/files/0/item/f_662874425/1/f_662874425 now.

Happy Holidays to our listeners. Blessed are the readers, as they say (or maybe that’s just what we say!).

We keep hearing from people who need gift ideas  – for office mates, for birthdays, winter solstice celebrations, for the first snow, for host/hostess gifts or just because.To help those of you searching for that perfect gift of a book, we have some ideas. Even if it’s the last minute you should still be able to find these titles at your local bookstore.

First, two cookbooks:

The perfect book and cookie for everyone on your list

The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009 by Gourmet Magazine. Beautiful graphics, some great history of american cooking and life.  Good recipes that yield delicious cookies.  And these in turn could become superb gifts. A nice cycle heh?

Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan – This master of the French Table provides recipes that inspire and allow you to enjoy one delicious meal after another.  Yes, it is French cooking. But it has a modern slant and tells you what the French are eating today – both at home and in restaurants.

Then some non fiction.

Always Entertaining, Julia Child

As Always Julia: The letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto — a collection of 200 letters exchanged between Julia and Avis DeVoto, her friend and unofficial literary agent.  The letters show a unique and lifelong friendship between the two women. They also illustrate the often challenging process of creating Mastering the Art of French Cooking. We recommend reading this, cooking a good french meal from Around the French Table and then watching Julie and Julia.

Now for some fiction.

Vida by Patricia Engel – a collection of related short stories about a Colombian-American woman who grows up in New Jersey as the daughter of Colombian immigrants.  The characters who inhabit these stories will move you and stay with you long after you close the book. This book is reminescent of Lahiri’s collections, but stands well on its own with a firmly Latin flavor.

We now have two picture books for kids and the adults who love them

Shhhhhhh…..It’s bedtime

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska – This book explores the different kinds of quiet with kind words and amazing illustrations.  Could calm the most frazzled holiday shopper and many many children. A great going to bed book.

Alfie Runs Away by Ken Cadow – This is a lovely story of a boy who runs away to home with a little help from his mother.

Now, one for chapter book readers (or those who are reading to chapter book readers).

Danger Box by Blue Balliet – A great old fashioned adventure story set in modern day Michigan. This tale incorporates an engaging mystery, small town life, surviving today’s recession, life with disabilities, growing up with beloved grandparents, finding friends and Darwin. Yes, it manages all that!

Other books we thought of but did not mention during the podcast.

Fiction

Room: A novel by Emma Donoghue – A stunning novel about survival.  Despite a disturbing concept – a boy and his mother are held hostage in a room, it remains uplifting – Lisa LC promises.

Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong – Great fiction for anyone needing a well written book that leaves you feeling good at the end.

Non fiction

Spoon Fed: How eight cooks saved my life by Kim Severson – You will love the time you spend with Ms. Severson.

Chapter books

The 68 Rooms by Marianne Malone – A superb story reminiscent of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler.

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