Monday, October 31, 2011

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke

It's hard to imagine a character more luckless than Sam Pulsifer, the antihero of An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. As a teenager he unwittingly sets fire to the Amherst home of poet Emily Dickinson, reducing it to ashes and snuffing out the landmark's docent and her husband in the process. He does ten years for his crime and returns home to find, to his utter amazement, hundreds of letters from people suggesting other famous authors' homes that deserve torching.

But Sam only wants to extinguish his fiery past and move on. With a new family, a career, and a life that's back on-track he keeps his incendiary history a secret until the unlucky day a stranger appears, introducing himself as the only child of the couple who died in the Dickinson House blaze. "You ruined my life," he tells Sam, "and now I'm going to ruin yours."

In short order the homes of Robert Frost, Edith Wharton, Herman Melville and other New England writers suffer suspicious blazes very much like Sam's trademark crime. His attempts to prove his innocence make for a darkly humorous story that will please any reader drawn to quirky characters, unlikely scenarios and a plot that twists and turns. At 305 pages  it's a quick and satisfying read.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cleverly Twisted

The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer

Two recent incidents prompted me to blog about this great book:

1. Spotting a Superman costume while shopping for Halloween festivities

2. A recent reader's advisory interaction with someone requesting "a fast, clean, unique, suspenseful mystery thriller"

Because I am not blogging about a comic book, the relationship of these incidents may appear uncertain. It is this combination of seemingly unrelated events that reminded me of the author Brad Meltzer.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

NaNoWriMo Nears!

Have you always wanted to write a novel? Maybe you even have a dusty half-finished manuscript in a dresser drawer or saved on your computer somewhere. Someday, you tell yourself, when you are not so busy, when you have that good idea, when you can take a workshop, when... But that day never comes.  Wouldn't you like to get this goal off your bucket list and be able to tell yourself that you've written a novel? Well, have I got an idea for you...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lonesome Dove

How many times have you heard or said, "I remember where I was when...."?  Though more than 20 years have passed, I clearly remember my introduction to Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Standing in Kirk-Bear Canyon Library, I pulled out a paperback copy. Intimidated by its size (more than 900 pages) and its theme (at that time, I had never read a Western), I finally checked it out and read one of the finest books of our time.
This Pulitzer Prize winning tale defies labels - its scope and appeal are epic and universal. The storyline follows two former Texas Rangers and their crew as they drive a cattle herd from the Texas bush country to the wilds of Montana. On the way, The Hat Creek Outfit encounters plenty of action including rustling, lynching, locusts, lightning, raging rivers, stampedes, outlaws and Indians. However, beyond the action, this is a novel of character, opportunities, relationships and lives - loved, lost and wasted.

If you haven't read it, put Lonesome Dove on the top of your "Bucket" list. Even if you have read it, make plans to relive the adventure.

Find other fine works by Larry McMurtry at your Library.

Vicki Ann

Friday, October 14, 2011

Historical Fiction Turnaround

     After about the fifth novel I've totally enjoyed in the historical fiction genre, I realize that I have to stop saying I don't like historical fiction.  I guess I never wanted to feel like I was reading to learn about a time period, rather that I was just reading a good story.  But good historical fiction gives you both (and it's not a bad thing to learn about a particular time period). 
    With all of that baggage out of the way, I really enjoyed Ellen Baker's novel I Gave My Heart to Know This.  You get a little bit of Rosie the Riveter, a little bit of keeping the home fires burning during World War II, a little bit of Wisconsin farm life, a little bit of California dreaming and a whole lot of family secrets.  A wonderful story with well developed characters that might also convince you to give the historical fiction genre a try if you've stayed away before.  I'm a fan now!

More Books

Monday, October 10, 2011

Liar, Liar

There are many things to love about Megan Whalen Turner's books. For starters, there's her lovingly built world, which draws heavily on ancient Greece and Rome. There's her twisty-turny plots, which deal with the fates of nations and surprise you at every page turn. There's her grand themes, about love and fate and the terrible choices a king or queen must make. But for me, the thing that keeps bringing me back, and actually drove me to purchase my own copies of all four books, is Eugenides. He's the star of three books, The Thief, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia, and a major character in another, A Conspiracy of Kings.

Eugenides of Eddis is a thief, a liar, and a scoundrel. You really can't trust a word that comes out of his mouth. And yet, you can trust him.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Silent in the Grave

As I sat down to write this post, I had to think. What have I read recently that was fantastic, amazing, really rave worthy? I won't tell you how long I sat thinking, but finally it came to me.  Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn. First, allow me to share the first sentence.

"To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor."

I love that first line! Anyway, Silent in the Grave is the first of the "Lady Julia Grey" series. With a gothic Victorian setting, the series follows the eccentric March family, but especially Julia, as she dares social mores and protocols in discovering a new side to herself after the death of her husband leaves her a widow. The characters are outrageous but believable, the pace is just right, and the ending shocking. What more could you want?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wordcatcher: An Odyssey Into The World of Weird and Wonderful Words

Consider the game of catch - one throws - the other receives.  In Wordcatcher, Phil Cousineau has chosen 250 words he terms wild, wonderful and weird and tosses them to the curious reader in a number of unique and satisfying ways.

Consider his criteria for inclusion. Each word has a surprising derivation (BAFFLE), or is fun to pronounce (BAMBOOZLE) or is mellifluous to the ear (GOSSAMER). Accompanying each entry are companion words - words with close connections to the defined word as well as a myriad of literary examples.

Ready to play? Sip a cappuccino (see page 66) and leisurely contemplate kavla (pg. 168)


P.S. The modern family's road trip is packed with a mobile entertainment center (TV, DVD and CD player). When Phil was growing up, his father made sure to pack a dictionary along for the road. It came in handy when the family visited the Philadelphia home of Edgar Allan Poe and the tour guide uttered the word "tintinnabulation".