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October 02, 2010

The Redwoods

The Redwoods

by Nancy  Martin   Bury Your Dead

Ah, October!  The air is crisp, and the nights come a little earlier. All the better to light a fire and curl up on the sofa with a good book.

My literary agent used to say that autumn is the time for the redwoods---not the trees, but the big books of the year.  Big books written by important writers who have something to say about the human condition as they tell a good yarn.  This year's biggest redwood is no doubt Jonathan Franzen's FREEDOM, a novel--"a wrenching, funny, and forgiving portrait of a Midwestern family." Oprah's chosen it for her book club, and my own book club--a group much more inclined to pick feel-good reads than "important novels," did, too.  I'll let you know what my group decides.

Also big this year is ROOM,  by Emma Donoghue, a book I picked up for the title and bought for the first page.  Product Details Now I'm not so sure I can read it. It's a harrowing book, the story of a 5-year-old boy who has lived his whole life in one room with his mother, who is held captive there by a man known as Old Nick. Gripping doesn't begin to describe the emotional affect of this book. So I'm reading it a paragraph at a time, and it's slow going for me. But I suspect it's a great book.

What I am voraciously reading right now is a compelling and beautifully written mystery novel titled BURY YOUR DEAD BY.......hm.......some lady by the name of Louise Penny.  It follows a newly saddened Inspector Armand Gamache as he visits the walled city of Quebec, visiting a mentor and getting caught up in a murder investigation.  Publisher's Weekly calls the book "moving and powerful," and I totally agree. It's also heart-breaking and uplifting.  Excellent October reading.

What are you reading on these cool October evenings? Any redwoods?

HANK:  Redwoods? Well, my husband is eager to start the new Ken Follett FALL OF GIANTSFall_of_giants_hb ...he adored Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. (There's a big dustup over the kindle price of the new Follett! Did you see that?  It's 19.99,and kindlers are going bananas. Giving the book one star--because of the Kindle price!)

I'm a bit focused on LAST year, hilariously...going to Bouchercon in two weeks, and reading up for the panel I'm moderating. So--Starvation Lake by Bryran Gruley, and The Thousand by Kevin Guilfoile. I'll report back later.  I'm also allowed to say I'm a judge in the YA division for the Edgars, so I'm up to my ears in YA mysteries. Fifty more to go. Really. No, really.

And I just led a bookclub seminar at Newtonville Books, my local indy, on To Kill a Mockingbird. So I just read that again, and am confessing, here, that when I was reading from it out loud at the meeting, I started crying.  (Hey, Boo.)

HARLEY: I’m researching my novel-in-progress-that-isn’t-progressing-as-quickly-as-I’d-like and the three nonfiction books I’m reading for it are Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, The Trouble with Testosterone by Robert Sapolsky, and H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement by Charles J. Ryan and now you know why my novel is not exactly writing itself. If you can find the common theme in these three books, please let me know.

 On a more frivolous note, I’m judging one of the annual award contests of one of the several thousand groups I belong to and don’t ask me how I got roped into this one, but anyhow, I have 12 big hardcover books sitting atop my desk. And one in my purse that I’m currently reading. And one on the doorstep that UPS just dropped off (by December I’ll be cursing both UPS and FedEx). I can never remember if I’m supposed to keep it a secret, that I’m a judge, or if I just have to keep my opinion of the actual books a secret, so I’ll just be vague and elusive about the whole thing. Let’s just say the books all look . . . thrilling.

P.S. My book club voted to read Freedom too, but I won’t be reading anything with them until sometime in 2011. I will show up for the meetings, however, because my book club throws a mean dinner party. 

NANCYP:  You get a feeling we read a lot for duty and favors?  That can be delightful--I've been on that YA committee, Hank, and I loved it.  So much good YA in the world!

I haven't been reading much because I've been reading much.  But what I've been reading is manuscripts.  I did a blurb for a novel, a blurb for a poetry chapbook, I'm just about to dive into an anthology of short stories that wants a blurb, and I did book jacket copy (!)  for an anthology from a small press. All for friends or acquaintances.  That's it, that's all of those I'm going to do for at least the next six months.  I don't care if my dead grandmother writes a novel and wants a quote, I'm telling her, "Maybe next time, Grandma."  A person can become a blurb slut and do nobody any good.  I just read that Ottawa is decriminalizing prostitution, but I think New York may criminalize blurbstitution.  Now I'm going to kick back and read a few (already-published) novels that have blurbs from other writers.  I will read those blurbs and smile, and suggest Grandma contact them.

So that's why I have no (published) books to talk about today.  Next time!

P.S. Oh! I am reading the non-fiction book listed in the right-hand column, but I am too allergy-stricken to be able to think hard enough to tell you about it.  I love it, though.  I also read a book about bootlegging in Kansas.  And reread a book of Billy Collins' poetry.  Love him! I forget what else. 






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Currently reading FLAWLESS: INSIDE THE WORLD'S LARGEST DIAMOND THEFT about the guys in 2003 who did it. I mean, come on, it's a caper, it's diamonds, it's international jewel thieves... how could I NOT grab this one? Plus, it's research. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

NIGHT OF THE LIVING TREKKIES! The "virus" that turns people into flesh-eating zombies hits a STAR TREK Convention in Houston. How could one possibly let this one go?

This morning, got a notice from Amazon that PAINTED LADIES is on the way. Very probably the last Spenser from RBP, I want to read this and I don't want to read it.

Got a stack of others waiting, including the sequel to the wonderful VAMPIRES OF HOLLYWOOD by Adrienne Barbeau (Tagline: "Not all the monsters in Hollywood are agents!" It's embarrassing to burst out laughing in a bookstore, trust me on that one.), along with BLOOD DIAMONDS (again, research), the new F. Paul Wilson "Young Jack" that I missed when it first came out, and other assorted books laying about.

All this, plus Turner Classic Movies has raided the Hammer Studio Vaults all night long every Friday this month.... Life's pretty good....:)

My reading gets interrupted by all sorts of things. So for October it is THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, DEWY THE LIBRARY CAT, TALES OF DESPEREAU, and SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE. November will be an UPLIFTING MURDER by Elaine.

Hank, while I was shopping in the iPad store, I noticed PILLARS OF THE EARTH was an "enhanced" e-book, so I took a look to see what other media stuff came with the text. Pictures, online links, even some video from the television series--it was all pretty great stuff. (OKay, maybe not the video. That series is....awfully dull, if you ask me. Even with Ian McShane in the cast!) So maybe the new Ken Follett is also "enhanced," and therefore worth the higher price.

William, I don't know about PAINTED LADIES either. Can I read it? Make it last? Oh, dear, how we miss RBP!

Alan, can you give us a review of DRAGON TATTOO? People keep saying I need to get to page 100, but I try and can't get that far. You?

Nancy, I'm not Alan, but I agree with the DRAGON TATTOO page 100 thing. The beginning was excruciatingly slow, but the pace picked up quite a bit. I found it an interesting read, although the characters were not likable at all.

I finally took THE LACE READER off my TBR pile. I'm only a couple of chapters in, but I'm hooked.

BURY YOUR DEAD is on it's way to me from MLB. I can't wait - I'm totally in love with Chief Inspector Gamache.

I went through The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and the next two) this summer in doctors' offices waiting (and waiting and waiting) to have our son. The story definitely takes awhile to get going but once it does I couldn't put it down (even when surrounded by countless vintage People magazines...).

I'm not reading any Redwoods this fall (I'm lucky to get time to read a blog!). I am re-reading the books on my shelves instead...a lot of Tarts, of course, and Jan Burke's Irene Kelley books.

Nancy - After our discussion, I downloaded THE ROOM to my Kindle and have started. Harrowing is right and I'm not sure it's good for my writing style. Still, it seems like it's going to be one of THOSE books.
Also, I've never read Mrs. Dalloway, so I'm reading that, too, along with finishingup some YA stuff (for work, really). YA is where it's at.
Wait...was I supposed to blog with the big girls about this?
Going to check out the Ken Follet thing now...

Sarah, have you read HUNGER GAMES? (It's the first in the YA series that ends with MOCKINGJAY that's currently all over the stores.) Now, *that's* a YA premise that's harrowing. And maybe a redwood. I should have mentioned it in the text of the blog. Oh, well.

Nancy, I gobbled up the HUNGER GAMES trilogy this summer. Loved it. It's fearless. I also read Stephen King's redwood, THE DOME. Loved it a lot less than Hunger Games, but was entertained. Another redwood I "red" this summer was Justin Cronin's THE PASSAGE. Loved it, though the first quarter or so was kind of tough going. The redwood I *should* read is THE HELP. Why can't I get myself to read it?

Nancy, I don't think THE HELP is a redwood, necessarily. It reads like light fiction. You'll enjoy it. Nothing daunting like THE PASSAGE--which I still haven't been tempted by. I should, huh?

Nancy, nah. I say, if you're not tempted by it, it's probably not for you. Save yourself the reading time. The first section seemed cold and repellent to me, but there is a point at which the book turns much warmer and more human (literally). On the other hand, I know somebody who cried with deep feeling over the first part, so. . .?

I watched the subtitled The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and was intrigued. I am now reading the sequel and it is good too, but not a "sit down, read it all in one sitting" way. Maybe I am just not in the mood for heavy. I do go through phases. I've read 4 other books and swear I am going to go back and finish it. Hmm. Maybe tomorrow.
I am thinking Night Of The Living Trekkies sounds go though.

Although, I am not into reading Redwoods I am enjoying this blog immensely.
Ken Follet's latest entry looks tempting.
My kids discussed The Dragon Tattoo and went into the 100 page angst but they eventually liked it.
Even though I have the Nook I stealthily bought Robert B Parker's print version of PASTIME. I discovered his writings on TLC and am trying to collect all his works.
Thanks for all the recommendations. It is joy to be among such great and thoughtful readers.

I'm reading Sophie Hannah's The Dead Lie Down, and am still trying to figure out where it's going.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was so violent that I've resisted reading the rest of the trilogy, but friends have recently reassured me that the two other books aren't nearly so much so.

Last night I was flipping to the last page of The New Yorker (known around here as "our beloved New Yorker), to see the cartoon contest, and on the inside back cover is a full-page ad for Bury Your Dead! Yay, Louise! That's pretty damned cool.

Heard a fascinating interview with Emma Donoghue on NPR the other day ... http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130143360 ... definitely going to read "The Room".

Today I am reading "Deeply, Desperately" by Heather Webber, then next up is Jennifer Crusie's "Maybe This Time".

I'm still making my way through "Maybe This Time", not because it moves slow, it definitely doesn't, but because I refuse to read it at night.

Laura in PA, I agree that the MTB novel had shivering a few times.

I'm not reading any redwoods at the moment, although Franzen's earlier book, "The Corrections", is at the top of my tbr pile. I'm currently reading Julia Glass's "I See You Everywhere."

I just finished HUNGER GAMES (read using the Kindle app on our "indefinite loaner" iPad, which I'm now wishing I'd NEVER discovered) and loved the trilogy. Definitely not for the faint-of-heart, though.

Before that, I finally read Brunonia Berry's THE LACE READER and LOVED it! The ending was just, well, wow. :)

I, too, balked at THE HELP for quite a while, but was persuaded by the reviews. It wasn't depressing so much as enlightening, and told with a great deal of compassion for all concerned. I recommend it.

I liked THE PASSAGE, but that's because I like all 3 types of novels that comprise the book: the first section is techno-thriller, the second is survivors of dystopia, and the third is The Big Quest To Save Humanity. I found the second section the slowest of the three, but the last section kept me up late turning pages. Here's a good review, if you're interested: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/08/AR2010060804591.html


After reading Maybe This Time I went into Janet Evanovich's "Wicked Appetite". A funny book with paranormal influences of course, with Diesel and some funny quirky characters.

I loved the Follett books, but I have to say, the books written on the same subject matter that I REALLY REALLY loved were the ones written years ago by Edward Rutherfurd - "Sarum," and "London."

And I have to agree with "Bury Your Dead" being a mighty redwood - along with "The Brutal Telling."

I cannot even think about reading "Room." And gave up at way less than 100 pages into "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." I just didn't care enough about anything that I was reading to continue plowing through it.

I'd also list as a redwood, Laura Lippman's newest. "I'd Know You Anywhere." It's her best to date, without a doubt.

Right now I'm reading Tess Gerritsen's "The Keepsake" along with savoring little passages from an ARC of Pat Conroy's "My Reading Life." (another redwood, imo).

Happy Weekend, Everyone!

It just saw on the internet that Stephen J. Cannell died. This is a shock to those who saw him earlier this year at Sleuthfest where he was one of the headliners. What a marvelous creative talent he was.

For me he was an inspiration – we are both profoundly dyslexic – and if he could still be a writer it took away all of my excuses. While he never produced any of my screenplays, his production company purchased one and optioned 2 other stories from me.

He died of a melanoma. As “Storyteller Mary” would say, Love and Peace (& sunscreen and big hats)

Cathy, thanks for that NPR link. The excerpt of ROOM isn't as harrowing as the earlier pages. Maybe I dare open the book again after all.

Kerry, you always have interesting stuff on your e-reader!

Thanks, Kaye, for reminding me of Laura Lippman's book. I have it, read the first two pages and put it aside for a time when I need a really great read. Maybe the airplane to B'con!

I just started "Bury Your Dead" and am already transported. I read Lippman's "I'd Know you Anywhere," and I found it wonderful and disturbing, and very moving. I'm finding that there are so many really good books, I have to be more picky.
Harley, the common theme in your books-not having read any of them-for me, seems to be about power, and the different ways people, um, express it. I'm looking forward to your book. My reading has become so much richer since I read your blogs.

Harley, one of my high school English teachers was a Theosopher. I had just a small (enormous) crush on him and read quite a lot about it. Your assorted reading materials sound like a pretty fascinating combination.

I am at the 100 page mark now. I will let you know in a few days. It is not a page turner so far, but there is enough of a story to keep me going. The one thing is that it is set in Sweden and it does not include a map, so I can't really connect with the places. My mother said the beginning was violent, I must have missed that page or it is still coming. My tastes are different than hers. Although after finishing HANNIBAL, I have no need to read anymore of Harris' books.

I started FREEDOM Thursday and have had to make myself put it down so I can get things done (like eating and sleeping). I'm really loving it.

Rod, I am saddened to hear about Stephen J Cannell's
Condolences to you and to all his family and associates.

I loathed Dragon Tattoo. After three false starts, I finished it because I needed to read it for a conference workshop I'm taking, but I wouldn't have bothered otherwise. I thought it was a horribly paced mediocre mystery with way too many names that begin with B. However, it spawned this wonderful spoof by Nora Ephron, and that makes it all worthwhile! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/28/nora-ephron-parodies-stei_n_627448.html

No Hunger Games for me. Or my 14 yo son. I just don't think that's where my YA stuff is headed, though Suzanne Collins has certainly hit on something big, no?

We're doing a Stephen J. Cannell tribute on Monday -- he was such a great guy. Stay tuned.

And yes, lil, I think you are absolutely right and that never occurred to me. Thank you!

Hey, all--just back from New England Independent Booksellers assoication, where I handed out and signed books--I do hope people enjoy them. (It's a great spot to get new readers, but this time, people were saying, Oh, I love your books. It was--transporting.)

Louise, Bury Your Dead was all over the place!

We also scored two bags full of freebies, including the new Spencer Quinn and Jed Rubenfeld (is that right?) and a bunch more. Oh, Hallie Ephron's new one, Come and Find Me. Can't wait.

And then, we had lunch, and then we needed to go shopping--and we bought: books! (We're idiots. ) Hunger Games, funnily enough, and Freedom, and Fall of Giants, in hardback, not Kindle. So Nanc,is it enhanced?

(I want to be enhanced...)

Rod, good to see you here--maybe I've been 'absent' on the days you have signed in, but I've missed your voice.
So upset yesterday to hear of SJ Cannell's passing, which was a shock to me, although I guess his inner circle must have known for some months now that he wasn't conquering the melanoma. I've only recently (thanks to Castle) discovered Cannell's writing style, and will miss the prospect of future offerings from him.
Harley, your research sounds like fun!

I've yet to be able to get past the vivid violence in The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, but wish I could. I've just sent out a Facebook message to all my Swedish cousins (acquired as a result of the Vietnam war when one Boston Irish folksinger left home) asking for insight into the popularity of Stieg Larsson. Like is there something cultural I'm missing that might get me beyond it?

If Bury Your Dead is the first Louise Penny novel you've read, you're in for a treat. Start with her first Inspector Gamache, Still Life, and keep going until you finish all the books that catch you up to Bury Your Dead. You'll be a fan for life. Not only does Louise write like an angel, not only has she received and been nominated for more awards than I can shake a stick at, she is also a thoroughly nice person. Get to know her and her books.

Shortly, I will be reading 'Secretariat: the Horse that God Built'.

But first, I am enjoying an ARC from a favorite author of mine...who ummm... is listed above...and the book is due out next month. :)

Now, leave me alone please. I want to go back to my happy place in Elaine's world. :)

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