Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cookbooks, love and money

I have had The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman on my to-read list for a while now, and it was finally time. Her writing style is up my alley  - lots of flawed characters, nice interconnections between people (without making it too contrived), and the story is spread out over just a few years instead of a sprawling saga.  By adding antique cookbooks to the mix, she had me hooked by the title - although the cookbooks don't show up for a while in the story.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Family Matters

On the first page of Split, by Swati Avasthi, sixteen-year-old Jace Witherspoon stands on his older brother's doorstep. He has $3.84 in his pocket, a broken face, and not much else. And after that last blowup with his dad, he can't go back home.

His brother Christian, who left the family when he couldn't deal with their abusive father anymore, immediately takes him in. Jace wants to build a new life for himself, but he can't stop thinking about his mom, now her husband's only punching bag.

He also can't stop thinking about what he did to his own girlfriend before he left.

We've all read the novels about abusive families, and we've all heard the statistics about abused children growing up to become abusers. In this powerful first novel, Avasthi pulls us into the head of a young man who's struggling with the question: can you ever really escape the person your family has made you into?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

With Blood in Their Eyes

Long before sun-up on a cold February morning in 1918, gunfire tore through a Southern Arizona mining shack spraying splinters of glass, wood and blood into infamy. Within several minutes, 25 bullets felled four men and prompted the largest manhunt in Arizona history. Thomas Cobb, a Tucson native, recounts this lesser-known but no less controversial Arizona gunfight in his historically based novel, With Blood in Their Eyes - deftly weaving fact, local lore and geographical color in among the events leading to the shooting and the chase.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


It's prime time for cinema aficionados - with the SAG and Golden Globes so recently behind us and the Academy Awards fast approaching on February 24th. Print pales before the gloss of the big screen but if you have time to read between pictures, you'll want to pore over two recently acquired additions to the library collection on film - The Rough Guide To 21st Century Cinema by Adam Smith and The Big Screen The Story Of The Movies by David Thompson.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chuck Klosterman

Even if you don't know who Chuck Klosterman is, the odds are good that he writes about subjects that interest you. Cheesy classic rock groups, Reality TV, breakfast cereal, movies about time travel, the NFL; if something is within the realm of popular or lowbrow culture, then Klosteman has probably tackled it in one of his essays, and he's almost certainly done it with a sharp sense of humor, a unique point of view and an articulate voice. Eating the Dinosaur, IV, and Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, three of his essay collections, all cover a multitude of guilty pleasures but because of the intelligence that Klosterman writes with - as well as the care that he takes to craft his arguments - you won't feel guilty reading about them.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lisa Genova and the Tucson Festival of Books

Every year, for the past five years, I spend a few months reading books in preparation for the Tucson Festival of Books.  I like to peruse the list of authors on the TFOB website and then pick some new authors to explore while making sure I have read the latest books of my old favorites.  Lisa Genova is an author that I first encountered a couple of years ago at the TFOB.  She spoke about her book, Still Alice – a book I hadn’t heard of until then.  I ended up blogging about that book last year.

Well, Lisa Genova is coming back to the Festival of Books and this time I am ready for her.  I just finished her new book, Love Anthony and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  This book is about two women living on Nantucket Island.  Olivia is trying to make sense of a devastating loss and Beth is in the midst of one.  Olivia is asking about the meaning of a life after the accidental death of her 8 year-old autistic son while Beth is struggling with the issue of forgiveness.  These two women come together when Beth returns to writing and brings to life the voice of a young boy with autism -- a voice that sounds uncannily like the voice of Olivia’s son – if he had ever spoken.   

Love Anthony is certainly about autism and the struggles of having an autistic son but it is also about two women who need to create new lives.  I won’t tell you whether they pull it off or not.  So read the book and stay tuned to for the schedule and come see and hear Lisa Genova in person!

Betsey S.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Hunter

What would you do if you got this text message? "How did your mother die?" Would you be panicked, because she was fine the last time you talked to her, or angry that someone was randomly sending out insensitive spam text messages? In John Lescroart's suspense filled tale, The Hunter, "How did your mother die?" is a question that Wyatt Hunt cannot answer. He cannot remember his birth mother. All he knows about his past is that he was in and out of foster care until he was adopted into the loving and caring Hunt family. Prompted by this text message, Wyatt, a private investigator by trade, begins to investigate his past. He finds a murdered young mother, an accused father and a trail of lies that leads from Mexico to Jonestown. Each answer leads to another question. Each question draws Wyatt into more and more danger. Secrets are revealed and much is at stake.

This book is the third in a series by John Lescroart. I usually like to read from the beginning in a series, but since this book provides the backstory to Wyatt Hunt's life, it can be read as a standalone book. I read a lot of mysteries, but somehow, until now, I have missed reading John Lescroart's mysteries. I plan to read more!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lost in Amish Country

Linda Castillo's series featuring Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is great. Let me warn you now: this is not a book to be read in short spurts of 10 minutes here and there. I would suggest uninterrupted multi-hour chunks of time...with short breaks so a person can take a breath and grab a snack. The first title, Sworn to Silence, sucked me into the plot so fast that all other books, magazines, and TV shows must be set aside.

Our heroine returns to the town she grew up in to become the police chief and is repeatedly tested by difficult and dangerous cases. The Amish setting is unique, the characters have flaws, and the suspense is drawn out. There are twists and turns, and while I never try to guess who the bad guy is (because I am terrible at it), I wouldn't even bother with these.

The first three books all have the word "silence" in the title, so I have a hard time remembering the order: Sworn to Silence, Pray for Silence, and Breaking Silence. (And yes, they need to be read in order.) The fourth book is Gone Missing, and the fifth title comes out in June: Her Last Breath. (Yea!)

These books are thrillers--dark and somewhat violent. And they aren't funny. No snappy one-liners here, at least that I can recall. For that, I would go with John Sandford's series with investigator Virgil Flowers. And while I love that character, this series is a little different: no fishing breaks or rock band T shirts here.

I can't explain why Linda Castillo's books first grabbed me, but I liked them enough to buy them (a rarity for me). And I couldn't put them down.