Monthly Archives: June 2010

Promises to Keep – Book Review

Looking around the table, Steffi sees pain, and grief, sadness and loss. And yet…and yet…there is love, and laughter, and life. – from Promises to Keep, page 336 –

Steffi is living in New York City, a thirty year old free spirit who cooks for a restaurant during the day and parties at night – jumping from one job to another, and finding all the wrong men. She couldn’t be more different than her sister Callie who is married to the perfect guy and is mom to two adorable children. Callie works as a family photographer and seems to have it all – love, family and success. When Steffi gets the opportunity to move closer to Callie as part of a pet-sitting job, she decides to try country life. She has no idea that over the next few months her life will be turned upside down when her beloved sister falls ill to a rare disease.

I have to admit – I picked up this book thinking it would be a light, easy “chick lit” kind of book. And it seemed to start that way. Jane Green quickly introduces the main characters: Mason, the publisher stuck in a dead-end marriage; Reece, Callie’s loving  husband who travels constantly for his job; Honor, Steffi and Callie’s Bohemian mother; Walter, Steffi and Callie’s father who has never stopped loving Honor despite their divorce years earlier; Lila Grossman, Callie’s best friend who has finally found love; and, of course, Steffi and Callie who take center stage in the novel. But, as the story unfolds, it becomes much more than “chick lit.” Green gives her characters heart and authenticity – real emotion rolls from the pages, and I found myself growing anxious for the characters. I did not want anything bad to happen to them. I became worried for Callie. In the final pages, tears rolled slowly down my cheeks. These characters became real for me – not fictitious. It takes a talented writer to make a reader forget they are reading fiction, and that is what Green did for me.

The heart of this novel finds its roots in Green’s actual life. Last year her close friend Heidi lost a battle with breast cancer when she fell into the small percentage of patients who contract Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis – a rare form of the disease which invades the central nervous system. The loss of Green’s friend was heartbreaking, but it taught her about love and life…and it was this journey through loss which gave Green the inspiration to write Promises to Keep.

Green includes recipes throughout the book – something that at first confused me. Why would an author insert recipes through a novel like this? But, eventually it began to make sense to me. Steffi is a chef – when she is sad or anxious or depressed, she cooks. When she wants to help someone, she makes them food. And food is one of those things that is nurturing not only to our bodies, but to our souls. Providing food for someone is a way of holding them up, comforting them, and showing love. And that is what this novel is about – being there for those you love, taking a painful journey through illness, giving comfort in times of need. Green’s decision to intersperse recipes through her story was a relevant and meaningful one, and something which ultimately gave greater depth to the novel.

This novel is about friendship, sisters, love, loss and moving forward through grief. It is about making hard choices. It is about growing up and finding oneself, even at age thirty or forty or seventy. I was tremendously touched by Callie’s story and her impact on those around her. This book was a pleasant surprise – far from being a “light” read, it ended up being one of those books which will stick with me for quite some time.

Readers who enjoy women’s fiction, novels about love and grief, and tender stories about family and friendship, will be drawn to Promises to Keep.

Highly recommended.

NOTE: Jane Green is donating 20% of her royalties from the sale of her book to breast cancer research.

Check out other reviews of Promises to Keep:

Have YOU reviewed this book? Drop me a link in the comments and I’ll add your review link above.

*FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

The Secret Lives of People in Love – Book Review

Love reveals the beauty of seemingly trivial things – a pair of shoes, an empty wine glass, an open drawer, cracks on the avenue. – from The World Laughs in Flowers, page 48 of The Secret Lives of People in Love –

Simon Van Booy weaves tales of ordinary people and makes them extraordinary in this collection of nineteen short stories. What appears trivial, is revealed to be monumental in the lives of his characters … all of whom have secrets they keep from those around them. As with his other published collection, Van Booy writes stories in poetic, intricate language which draws the reader in.

My favorite story in the collection is perhaps the shortest story at only three pages. In The Reappearance of Strawberries, a man’s deathbed becomes a reminiscence of love in France sparked by the joy of sweet strawberries.

Eight stories above the infamous rue de Vaugirard, the man in the ninth bed of the Bonnard Hospital ward had requested nothing but strawberries for several day. For most of that Tuesday afternoon all that could be heard were the tiny hands and feet of rain against the window. – from The Reappearance of Strawberries, page 11 of The Secret Lives of People in Love –

Van Booy takes the reader to New York City in several of his stories, relating the immigrant experience from a very personal point of view. A Russian man living in Brooklyn finds himself contemplating marriage to an American girl, but he harbors a secret from when he served on a Russian submarine. This secret fills him with guilt. Before he can move forward in his life and in his relationship, he must face his demons; and as the tale unfolds, the secret is revealed.

All seas are one sea. Every ocean holds hands with another. Although I have a job in Brooklyn, and I even have a girlfriend called Mina, part of my soul is in Russia. If I can brave the sea one last time – just up to my chest – I know that I may be reunited with myself. – from As Much Below as Up Above, page 14 of The Secret Lives of People in Love –

The themes of loss and redemption are common in this collection. For many of the characters, their secrets keep them tethered to guilt. In Distant Ships a father living in a small village in Wales chooses to become mute when tragedy steals his son from him. His days are monotonous as he gets up each day to work in a warehouse. He mourns his son and the wife who has moved to America but never divorced him. Van Booy’s ability to capture grief and loss is amazing – and he does so with few words.

Sometimes I time my walk to coincide with the three o’clock school bell. Children gush into the playground like hot water and into the arms of their parents. I would give everything, even memory – especially memory – if I could hold Leo again. The weight of his absence is the weight of the entire world. – from Distant Ships, page 68 of The Secrets of People in Love –

I also found myself being pleasantly surprised by some of Van Booy’s stories. In Snow Falls and Then Disappears the opening sentence reads:

My wife is deaf. Once she asked me if snow made a sound when it fell and I lied. We have been married twelve years today, and I am leaving her. – from Snow Falls and Then Disappears, page 77 in The Secret Lives of People in Love –

Because of those first sentences, I thought I knew where this story was going – but as with so much of Van Booy’s prose, the story takes an unusual turn I was not expecting.

There were a couple of stories which had me scratching my head a bit – Some Bloom in Darkness is one of them. In this story Sabone, who works at the railroad station, witnesses a woman being abused. This event has a huge impact on him – specifically, he begins to lust after a manikin in a store window. I won’t tell you how the story ends, but suffice it to say, this one was a bit bizarre.

Despite sometimes feeling a little lost as to the meaning of certain stories, overall Van Booy’s debut short story collection is astonishing and satisfying. Poetic, spare, and showing insight into the human condition, Van Booy’s writing is a treat.

Those who love the art of the short story will want to add this book to their reading list. Van Booy does not disappoint.

Recommended.

**FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

Mailbox Monday – June 28, 2010

Another Monday…and another Mailbox Monday (hosted each week by Marcia at The Printed Page).

No matter how disciplined I try to be, books keep finding their way onto my shelves…and this week was no different.

Here is what arrived on my doorstep over the last seven days:

I requested Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman  (due for release in July from Doubleday) through a Shelf Awareness offer. This novel is set on the coast of Maine over the course of four summers and connects the stories of two families. There is something about books set in New England coupled with family sagas and secrets that call out to me. Red Hook Road is actually a follow up novel to a previous book by this author (Love and Other Impossible Pursuits), which I have not yet read. Khaled Hosseini says this about Red Hook Road: “A thoroughly gripping and elegantly written story about love, grief, friendship, and the unexpected ways in which disaster brings families together. The novel is chockfull of revelations and insights on how people both unravel and manage to find grace under strain.

Ayelet Waldman is the author of two previous novels. She has also had her work published in the New York Times, Elle, Vogue and other magazines and journals. You might remember the fallout that Waldman faced when she wrote in an essay that she loved her husband more than her children – later she published her memoir Bad Mother and was interviewed on NPR (where she spoke about the controversy). Waldman is married to novelist Michael Chabon and they live in Berkeley, California with their four children. Learn more about Waldman and her work by visiting the author’s website.

Rebecca from Viking/Penguin emailed me a pitch I could not turn down, and so I now have The Doctor and The Diva by Adrienne McDonnell lined up for review this summer (the book is set for release in July). This debut novel is a “tale of passionate love affairs, dangerous decisions, and a woman’s irreconcilable desires as she is forced to choose between the child she has always longed for and the opera career she cannot live without.” Doesn’t this sound like a fantastic summertime read? The book is set in the early 1900s and moves from Boston to a coconut plantation on the island of Trinidad to the remote rivers of South America and to the opera stages of Florence. Called “lush,” “haunting,” and “absorbing,” The Doctor and the Diva portrays the life of a woman who dares to want it all.

Adrienne McDonnell has taught literature and fiction writing at UC Berkeley and led writing workshops at both Berkeley and Adult Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She lives near San Francisco. The Doctor and the Diva is her first novel. Check out the author’s website for more information.

I also found myself browsing the sale shelves at Barnes and Noble this week and could not resist picking up two books which I’ve been interested in reading for awhile now:

A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (Atria Books 2009) – A crime novel set in the 1950s in apartheid South Africa, this novel got some fantastic reviews when it was first released. This is Nunn’s debut, but her sequel to the book (Let the Dead Lie) was releases in paperback in April 2010 through Washington Square Press. Read more about Nunn on the publisher’s page.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central Publishing 2008) – Another debut novel, this time set in Stalin’s Soviet Union. A thriller and page turner, here is another book which excited reviewers when it was released. Smith has since published his second book – The Secret Speech (available in paperback May 2010). Read more about Smith and his work on the author’s website.

And for those of who read my Sunday Salon post yesterday, you’ll see I also found some amazing books (at great prices) in the yard sales on Saturday!

What books came into YOUR house this week?

Sunday Salon – June 27, 2010

June 27, 2010

7:00 AM

I am up bright and early this morning. I love this time of day before the heat settles in – a light breeze is blowing and the birds are singing their hearts out. Yesterday Kip and I had a busy day of yard sales and going to the Tuscan Heights Lavender Festival in Whitmore (which is about 30 minutes from our home). I took a ton of photos as they are running a photo contest and I want to enter – but also I am planning on posting an article about the event here on my blog this week.

I ended up picking up a few interesting books at the yard sales (for a total of $5.00!!):

  • Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs (Advance Readers Edition)
  • Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs (hardcover)
  • Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (hardcover)
  • Four Souls by Louise Erdrich (trade paperback)
  • Little Children by Tom Perrotta (trade paperback)
  • The Celebrated Jumping Frog and Other Stories by Mark Twain (GORGEOUS hardcover, illustrated)

Not bad, eh?

My reading for the month continues to be above average in terms of volume. Since my last Sunday Salon post I finished reading The Catcher in the Rye (read my review) which was mostly a disappointment. It just didn’t resonate with me – but I don’t think I was the audience for which it was intended. I also blew through The Outside Boy (read my review) which I really enjoyed. If you have teenagers, I think this would also be a book which appeals to a young adult audience.

I was reading two books during the latter part of the week, one of which I finished.

The Secret Lives of People in Love, by Simon Van Booy is a collection of short stories. You might remember that I read (and loved) Van Booy’s collection titled Love Begins in Winter (read my review), so I was really excited to delve into The Secret Lives of People in Love. I am finding most of the stories to be beautiful – but some are leaving me scratching my head a bit. I hope to finish the book today and post a review later.

I finished reading The Quickening by Michelle Hoover on Friday (read my review). Wow, this book was somber…but very well written. I loved Hoover’s character development and tone, but I’ll warn you, this is not a happy book. Still, I think that readers who love books which are grounded firmly in history and portray gutsy women, will want to read this novel.

Last night I cracked the spine of Jane Green’s latest novel: Promises to Keep. I read through the first 50 pages before finally turning out the light and giving in to sleep. This book is written in the present tense…which I will admit doesn’t always work for me. But once I allowed myself to fall into the story telling, I was hooked. I expect this to be a quick read as women’s fiction is like desert for me and I like to consume it in big chunks. If I’m right, then I should be able to squeeze in at least one more book for the month…and I’m looking at Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas (which I’ve been seeing reviewed around the blogs lately).

What are you doing this beautiful Sunday in June? Whatever it is, I hope it includes a great book!!

The Quickening – Book Review

Children are a way of keeping things, or so I once believed. They plant you to this earth, give you roots to stay a while.  – from The Quickening, page 5 –

The Quickening is the story of two women, their connection to the land and to their children…and ultimately to each other. Set in the midwest over a period of more than 30 years, including the desolate years of the Great Depression, Michelle Hoover alternates her novel between the points of view of each of these women.

Enidina (Eddie) Current is a heavy woman who comes to marriage late in life when she is 30 years old. She willingly commits herself to not only her gentle husband Frank, but to the land and farming, and she longs for children. Her story, told in retrospective, becomes a meditation to the grandson she has never met. Mary Morrow, on the other hand, must adjust her expectations when she marries the brutal Jack – a man whose temper evolves into abuse. Mary longs for a civilized life – she wants something better for her sons, but quickly recognizes that is dream which cannot be realized. Mary at first hopes for a friendship with Eddie, but later turns to her religion and the companionship of her soft-spoken pastor for solace.

When my sons were born, when they grew to stand and watch their father cutting like a knife through the fields, I kept them in too – because if anything, I wanted to hold them in that lifted-up place I believed was promised us, in that place where were were better than all the rest and more deserving, and with my sons it would not just be a far-off belief or a kind of pretending. It would be. – from The Quickening, page 22 –

Mary’s desire for a different life changes her over the years. She becomes fiercely protective of her youngest son; and when faced with what she perceives as a threat to her family, she seeks self-preservation over all else.

What I wanted felt like a hunger, rising from my ribs, my throat, starved for something immense, golden. Jack was greater than many a man, but he could give me only sons and mud and butchered meat – I wanted something clean. – from The Quickening, page 32 –

The Quickening is an honest, searing look at life for a farmer’s wife during the Depression years. Drought, poverty, accidents, and petty gossip all take their toll on these two women and their families. At times, the story is simply heartbreaking and bleak. Yet, Hoover’s prose is so true and so empathetically wrought, that it is hard not to keep reading despite the sadness and lack of hope. Hoover’s writing captures the land and the animals, and the gritty endurance of a hard life.

I’ve always had a way with animals, or so others have said. It’s sympathy, I guess. I take what I need. No more. No less. I treat them as creatures that know pain and stillness and the pleasure of a stomach when it’s full. Just the same as us. That morning at my brother’s place, I drew my skirts to fit the bucket between my knees and pressed my forehead against the animal’s flank. I could feel her breathing, knew she was nervous by the way her ribs shuddered. Those cows smelled good and warm, the smell of hay and something sharp enough it makes your eyes water. Some might call it a stink, but that smell has always been home to me. – from The Quickening, page 90 –

Thematically The Quickening explores the ideas of isolation, loneliness, and the importance of women’s friendships in the face of tragedy. I grew to respect the two women in Hoover’s novel – they are not always likable, they often stumble and make mistakes…but for that they become real.

This novel is not a feel good novel. It is almost unbearably sad. And yet, the honesty of the work shines through and provides the light in an otherwise bleak story. Hoover is a talented writer – one who understands her characters motivations, needs and flaws, and can portray them with a compassion which draws the reader into their stories.

Readers who wish to understand the challenges facing women who chose the hardscrabble life of farming in the midwest during an economically difficult time, will be drawn to The Quickening. Michelle Hoover is a writer to watch.

Recommended.

The Outside Boy – Book Review

And it seemed to me that we was like seafarers, and the tober was the ocean. We was passing the landlubbers by. We gawped at each other, us from our ships, and them from their shores, but the gap between us was so big we couldn’t cross it. It was high tide or low tide, or whatever tide would prevent us from dropping anchor and rowing out to them, to exchange gifts and brides, gods and diseases. – from The Outside Boy, page 55 –

Eleven year old Christy has lived his whole life on the road – a “traveler” in Ireland – along with his grandparents, father, aunt, uncle and cousins. Martin, the cousin closest to Christy in age, is his constant companion and friend. When Christy’s grandda dies unexpectedly, the family decides to stop traveling for a time in order to facilitate getting Christy and Martin’s Communion.

Granny said it was serendipity that brought us to this town after Grandda died, like as if serendipity was a carousel, or a train you could buy tickets from, and then decide for yourself where it was you wanted to get off. Granny was sure that this was the town that’d welcome us, where we could stay long enough for me and Martin to get our long-overdue Communions. Where we could hunker down and start the work of repairing ourselves. – from The Outside Boy, page 58 –

Christy soon discovers that enrolling in school doesn’t make him any more acceptable to the townspeople. In fact, living among them, he soon begins to question the flexible morality with which he has been brought up. For example, is stealing to fill an empty belly the same as stealing something one covets?

When Christy discovers a worn out newspaper clipping of his mother (who he believes has died giving birth to him), the mystery of his past surfaces…and Christy goes on a search to not only discover his true identity, but to determine whether or not his past will impact his future.

The Outside Boy is a coming of age story dropped into the rich history of Ireland’s gypsies during the mid-twentieth century. Christy is a typical boy in many ways, but his alienation and isolation from the larger world have worked together to make him question the life his family has led. Despite the love of his family, he carries with him the guilt of his mother’s death and wonders if he has missed something essential in not having a stable home. Christy’s search for his identity is the central theme in the book.

Jeanine Cummins captures the life of a nomadic family perfectly, revealing not only their challenges but also their joys. Cummins seems to understand that financial well being does not always equate to happiness, and that love is deeper than material comfort. Christy’s struggle to understand himself, his eagerness for acceptance among his peers, his encounter with first love – all ring true.

There is one part of the book which I did not like – and I will admit it is my own subjective emotion. In the novel an animal dies – actually an animal is killed – and it upset me. I don’t like when animals die in books. Although I will say that this scene was not gratuitous and it actually fit within the context of the story and supported one of the major themes (which is loss and recovery). Even still, if you are like me, you might want to have this warning up front.

Despite this one complaint, I enjoyed my journey with Christy and his family. I think The Outside Boy is a bit of a crossover YA/Adult book. Teens will identify with Christy’s search for himself and struggles with his peers; and adults will enjoy the history of Ireland’s traveling people and the themes of love, loss and moving forward after tragedy. The novel also opens up questions regarding morality – a wonderful jumping off point for discussions with teens about right and wrong, and religion.

Cummins writes with authority and sensitivity – she understands her characters emotions and flaws, and it shows in the writing. Christy is a character walking the fine line between wanting to be an adult, and longing to remain a child – and Cummin’s captures this beautifully, bringing to life a young boy who at times only wishes to be held in the arms of a mother he has never met. Poignant and heartfelt, this is a novel I can recommend.

*FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

I’m a Magic Wand…


You Are the Magic Wand


You are imaginative and idealistic. You believe that anything is possible, and you don’t leave room for doubt.

You think that there is too much hopelessness in the world. People need more optimism and hope in their lives.

You know that change isn’t as easy as the flick of a magic wand, but you also know that amazing things can happen if you let them.

You aren’t sure if you believe in miracles, but you do believe in yourself. And that’s almost as good.

Feeling Antsy?

It is officially summer which makes me think of all kinds of things: hiking, swimming, hot weather, cloudless days…and insects. So when I turned on NPR the other day and heard they would be interviewing entomologist and author Mark Moffett about his latest book Adventures among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions, I decided to listen in. And I am glad I did. It was fascinating and you can listen to the whole thing here on NPR.

Moffett is interesting to listen to, and even though I have had some bad experiences with ants in the past (see below if you want to read a re-post about my 2006 home remodel encounter with about a billion ants), he actually made me want to read his book. Moffett traveled all over the world researching ants and photographing them for his book. Apparently he has written a previous book about frogs too. Moffett also writes for National Geographic. To learn more about his work, check out the author’s website.

I plan on putting this one on my wish list!

****************************

The 2006 Nightmare (a Home Remodel Re-Post)

I have a friend who scoops up spiders, moths, and other insects found in her home and sets them free outside. She believes all living things have a purpose. I need to call her and ask her what ants do for the planet.

We removed the roof from our house and tore down the entire middle section. Apparently roof shingles are a great place for ants to set up a colony. A conservative estimate of their number would be about a billion. These are the tiny, Argentine ants that terrorize pantries and kitchens; and file in vast numbers up walls, through cracks and along counter tops. I didn’t start to get really concerned until I walked into our guest bedroom (now office) and noticed the carpet moving like an undulating wave of orange shag, whose center seemed to be the cat feeding station. I admit, I screamed. Perhaps I got a little hysterical. At any rate, my reaction caused Kip to bolt from his slumber and appear disheveled and grouchy in the doorway.

He tried to calm me.

“They’re just ants, Wendy.”

I gave him an incredulous look as I fought to drag the vacuum cleaner from it’s spot in the laundry room.

“There are gazillions of them.” I protested.

The cats watched from a distance, more concerned with the vacuum cleaner than the ants.

Several minutes later after a frenzied bout of cleaning, the carpet had stopped moving. I wondered if the ants could find their way out of the vacuum bag. I dragged the machine outside just in case. By then, Kip had returned to his nest of blankets and pulled a pillow over his head.

I thought of my friend and her pacifist ways, shrugged and lugged the phone book out to find a pest control company.

**Postscript: We ended up not using a pest control company, but fought the ants on our own. Each night (since that is when they would begin their assault on our house), Kip and I dragged out the ant killer, donned our headlamps, and proceeded to assassinate billions of ants as they marched from a large cedar tree, along the ground, up the side of the house, and into the guest room. It took us nearly two weeks of concerted effort to annihilate the colony.  Moffett has an entire section of his book devoted to Argentine ants which have taken over California. Apparently these tiny creatures are in constant battles with other ant colonies all over the state and show no sign of being exterminated.

Quilts for Kids – Finished!

As part of the Social Justice Challenge in May, I decided to make a quilt for an organization called Quilts for Kids whose mission is:

Transforming discontinued, unwanted and other fabrics into patchwork quilts that comfort children with life-threatening illnesses and children of abuse.

I finished this quilt over the weekend and mailed it off today where it will get a label and be sent to a child in a hospital. Quilts for Kids have distributed thousands of quilts for children with terminal illness who are in hospitals nationwide. Check out the gallery of quilts on their site. Want to make a quilt for this organization? Visit this page for FAQs.

Here is my finished quilt (click on photos to enjoy a larger view):

Mailbox Monday – June 21, 2010

Welcome to this week’s edition of Mailbox Monday hosted every Monday by Marcia at The Printed Page.

I got some real gems this week.

Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi and Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal both arrived from Peirene Press thanks to Meike. I discovered this small press through a post by El Fay on This Book and I Could Be Friends (thanks El Fay!).

Beside the Sea is a disturbing and compelling novella about a mother and her two young children. First published in France, it has now been translated by Adriana Hunter for English speaking readers. I was so excited when I got this book, I read it immediately (read my review).

Veronique Olmi is a French author who was born in 1962 in Nice and now lives in Paris. Her twelve plays have won numerous awards. She has published six novels.

Stone in a Landside takes place in the Catalan Pyrenees at the beginning of the last century when 13-year-old Conxa is sent to live and work for her childless aunt. After years of hard work follow she meets and falls in love with Jaume only to be separated by Civil War. The story is narrated by Conxa, now in her waning years. The novella is translated by Laura McGloughlin and Paul Mitchell. This book has received much praise. Financial Times writes: ‘… there is an understated power in Barbal’s depiction of how the forces of history can shape the life of the powerless.

Maria Barbal was born in 1949 in Tremp (Pyrenees) and studied Philology in Barcelona where she still lives today. She has established herself as the most influential and successful Catalan contemporary author, winning numerous awards including the national literature prize of Spain, the Serra d’Or and the renowned Prudenci-Bertrana prize.

Publisher Simon & Schuster sent me a finished copy of Sea Escape by Lynne Griffin which I will be touring in July for TLC Book Tours. This novel is about the relationship between a mother and daughter. When Laura Martinez’s mother suffers a debilitating stroke, Laura returns to a once-loved beach house to reclaim her father’s love letters to her mother. The book jacket reads:

As Laura delves deeper into her tangled family history, each letter revealing patchwork details of her parents’ marriage, she finds a common thread. A secret, mother and daughter unknowingly share.

Lynne Griffin is a nationally recognized expert on family life. She teaches in the graduate program of Social Work and Family Studies at Wheelock College and at Grub Street Writers. She lives outside of Boston with her family. Sea Escape is her second novel. Learn more about Griffin and her work by visiting the author’s website.

Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley found its way to my doorstep via a Shelf Awareness offer from Simon & Schuster. The book is the first in a projected series and was nominated for this year’s Edgar Award, and was recently nominated for two Anthony Awards (Best First Novel and Best Paperback Original).  Set in Michigan, the novel opens with the pieces of a shattered snow mobile washing up on the shores of  Starvation Lake. Connected to the disappearance of the town’s legendary hockey coach years earlier, the snow mobile becomes the first piece of evidence suggesting murder rather than a tragic accident. Protagonist Gus Carpenter (the editor of the local newspaper) begins to investigate the crime – and as the case moves forward, he uncovers some disturbing secrets for which some people may be willing to kill. Visit the fictional town of Starvation Lake and listen to the author narrate excerpts from the novel.

Brian Gruley is the Chicago bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. He was won numerous awards for his writing and reporting. Starvation Lake is his first novel. He lives with is family in Chicago. To learn more about Gruley and his work, visit the author’s website.

I also received a wonderful package in the mail this week from a Library Thing friend (click on photos to enjoy a larger view):

  • Gorgeous bookmarks by Australian artist Ellis Rowan
  • Wonderful Australian triple milled soaps
  • And, of course the books: The Twyborn Affair by Patrick White (awarded the Noble Prize for Literature in1973), The China Garden by Kristina Olsson (well-known Australian author), and a fun book called My Listography which I cannot wait to start filling up with lists!

My week in books was fantastic! How about you? Did anything wonderful show up in YOUR mailbox this week?