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Archive for March, 2009

Share and Tell

1. Check out The Urban Muse for adventures in reading, writing and the creative life.

2. Make your own book here.

3. For a visual feast go here.

4. This makes me yearn for my art school days of sitting behind the Philadelphia Art Museum or in Rittenhouse Square with my own sketchbook.

5. Watch this video on the economy made by high school students that got President Obama’s attention.

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“Cost” a novel by Roxana Robinson
Her memory was gone.

This story was stunning and heartbreaking. It covers family, memory, addiction and what happens when all three collide. What really impressed me was the POV and how we got inside each character but it never felt sudden or forced.

“A Cold Day in Paradise” a novel by Steve Hamilton
This is a murder mystery that I read for my book club. It won two awards in its genre. What I enjoy about mysteries is the pacing. Much to learn from mystery writers about plot. Things happen. You’re never stuck in somebody’s head as they ponder their belly button. I did have a strong inkling of who was behind it and I was right although I didn’t guess at the motivation. Quick, easy read.

“The Heretic’s Daughter” a novel by Kathleen Kent
The distance by wagon from Billerica to neighboring Andover is but nine miles.

As a direct descendant of Martha Carrier, a woman wrongly hanged as a witch in Puritan New England, Kent has a unique perspective with which to write this novel. Using her own family stories, research and imagination she brings to life one of the more disturbing chapters of our history.

“72 Hour Hold” a novel by Bebe Moore Campbell
Right before the devastation, I had a good day.

Yet another story of a mother struggling to help an adult child who has totally lost their way. “Cost” is about the devastation of addiction. This story is about the devastation of mental illness. Keri’s daughter. Trina is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Meds help, if she takes them. They help if she doesn’t drink. If she doesn’t smoke weed. When she does these things, she slips off the edge into paranoia and violence. The novel gripped me and I read it late into the night as this mother does what she believes she has to do in order to keep her daughter safe.

“The Suicide Index- Putting My Father’s Death in Order” a memoir by Joan Wickersham
In the airport, coming home from vacation, he stops at a kiosk and buys grapefruits, which he arranges to have sent to his daughters.

This is the best memoir I have ever read. Ever.  I am in awe of the heart-breaking precision with which she attempts to piece together some semblance of who her father was, who she thought he was and how he could be the man who took a gun down from his closet, walked into his study and shot himself. The structure ambles in time, much like grief, which is by no means a linear process. She takes us with her on this devastating journey that I know will haunt me for a very long time.

“Here Beneath Low-Flying Planes”
short stories by Merrill Feitell
It is Thanksgiving, the great day of dinner, of Dockers and dress shirts and marshmallow-sweetened squash.

This collection won the Iowa Short Fiction Award in 2004. It’s a slender volume of stories but each one is deep with character. In one, a middle-aged woman caught between her own fear and restlessness finds both on a solo cross country trip. I fell in love with the title story that closes the collection with a breathtaking sweep of individual loves and lives.

“An Abundance of Katherines”
a YA novel by John Green
The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine he took a bath.

I seriously laughed out loud as I read this book. The voice is incredibly engaging as is the friendship of the two main characters Colin and Hassan. Colin is a nineteen year old child prodigy with a talent for anagrams who is afraid that he will never live up to his early promise. He has only dated girls named Katherine and had been systematically dumped by each one over the years. The last one sends him into an emotional tailspin and causes him to set out on a roadtrip with his best friend Hassan. All Colin wants is to matter in life. To that end he attempts to mathematically prove “The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability” which he hopes will predict the outcome of any relationship.

“Blue Jasmine” a YA novel by Kashmira Sheth
So what if this summer is cooler than last, Seema? Last summer you were not leaving us.

I read this for mother/daugher book club and there will be much to discuss at the meeting. It tells the story of twelve-year-old Seema who leaves her extended family in India to live with her immediate family in Iowa. We see the startling differences through Seema’s eyes as she adjusts to new seasons, weather, school, friends and kids who are not friends. Everything is bigger in America including the roads, gas stations and stores and Seema tries to find her way in this big new world.

“Looking for Alaska”
a YA novel by John Green
The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party. To say that I had low expectations would be to underestimate the matter dramatically.

Miles Halter, with his obsession for famous last words, is not impressed with his so-called minor life in Florida and decides to pack up and go to boarding school in hopes of finding “The Great Perhaps”  (famous last words of Francois Rabelais). There he meets his roommate Chip “the Colonel” Martin who renames (ironically)  him Pudge. He also meets the wild, moody, unpredictable, sexy Alaska Young. He is quickly lured into their world of cigarettes, sex, alcohol and pranks that they take to an art form. The book is structured into segments before and after. Events lead up to the event that will change their lives forever. We see Miles transform from who he was before boarding school and after, who he was before the event and after.

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