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October 26, 2010

NOOKcolor



Wow. I have to say this is pretty slick. Even though I own an iPad, this is very tempting!

Go here to see all the specs, including:

Extra Wide Viewing Angle

Portrait or Landscape View

Newsstand Favorites (color-rich magazines)

AliveTouch and "Read-To-Me" Technology for Kid's Books

Browse a Friend's Nook Library

Connect Directly to FaceBook and Twitter

Share Passages or Recommend Books to Friends

Organize Your Home Page

Personalize Your Bookshelf

Tune In To Pandora

All for $249. Sounds like a perfect Christmas gift to me.

And, yes. I'm an Amazon Associate. But I work for B&N. What can I say? Please support my employer! ;)

October 25, 2010

Movie News




From Shelf Awareness:

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, based on the book by Stieg Larsson (Knopf, $27.95, 9780307269997/030726999X), opens this Friday, October 29. Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist star in this final part of the Millennium trilogy.

Go here to read more and view the trailer.

October 5, 2010

Room



Room by Emma Donoghue
Fiction
2010 Little, Brown
Finished 9/28/10
Rating: 5/5 (Brilliant!)



Publisher's Blurb:

A five-year-old boy—who's lived his whole life in a single room—narrates this riveting story of the power of a mother's love.

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It's where he was born, where he and his Ma eat and play and learn. At night, Ma puts him safely to sleep in the wardrobe, in case Old Nick comes.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she's been held for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for her son. But Jack's curiosity is building alongside Ma's desperation—and she knows Room cannot contain either indefinitely...

Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.

My husband and I were discussing this book a few nights ago and I came to the conclusion that I really enjoy a narrative told from a child's point-of-view. I love their take on the world; their naïvé outlook on how things operate (and how those around them get along). I remember having this same reaction after reading Patricia Wood's Lottery. Jack reminded me of Wood's Perry, who, as he's quick to remind you, is definitely not retarded. One has to have an IQ of less than 75 to be retarded and his IQ is 76. Definitely not retarded. Just slow. There's something about a child's (or a child-like) view of the world to make one truly appreciate life and its blessings. Maybe it's just their lack of filter.

As I talk to other readers about this extraordinary book, I find that some are resistant to reading a story about an abduction, worried that it will be too distressing, violent or exploitative. And yet Donoghue does a remarkable job telling a tale of a young girl held in captivity (for seven years!) with her small child (conceived by the man holding them captive) without resorting to gratuitous details of each and every encounter with "Old Nick." His presence is felt and observed, but the abduction is more of a backdrop to this story about a mother and son's love for one another, and that love ultimately overshadows the darkness of the kidnapping and confinement.

Did I mention how much I love Jack? Oh, my. What a remarkable little boy! His mother not only taught him math and how to read, but knew the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, in spite of her obvious limitations. Jack may seem a bit precocious, but I loved him nonetheless. And, I have to keep reminding myself he doesn't really exist. I don't need to worry about him anymore. I don't need to wait for a sequel to see how he and his ma are doing.

Jack on Reality:

Outside has everything. Whenever I think of a thing now like skis or fireworks or islands or elevators or yoyos, I have to remember they're real, they're actually happening in Outside all together. It makes my head tired. And people, too, firefighters teachers burglars babies saints soccer players and all sorts, they're all really in Outside. I'm not there, though, me and Ma, we're the only ones not there. Are we still real?

and

The sea's real, I'm just remembering. It's all real in Outside, everything there is, because I saw the airplane in the blue between the clouds. Ma and me can't go there because we don't know the secret code, but it's real all the same.

On the Outside:

I'm learning lots more manners. When something tastes yucky we say it's interesting, like wild rice that bites like it hasn't been cooked. When I blow my nose I fold the tissue so nobody sees the snot, it's a secret. If I want Ma to listen to me and not some person else I say, "Excuse me," sometimes I say, "Excuse me, Excuse me," for ages, then when she asks what is it I don't remember anymore.

and

"Let's go onto the grass." She pulls me a little bit.

I'm squishing the green spikes under my shoes. I bend down and rub, it doesn't cut my fingers.

and

In the parking he puts out his hand beside him like I'm meant to hold it. Then he puts it down again.

Something falls on my face and I shout.

"Just a speck of rain," says Paul.

I stare up at the sky, it's gray. "Is it going to fall on us?"

and

It's quiet when she's gone, except there's squeaky sounds in the trees, I think it's birds but I don't see. The wind makes the leaves go swishy swishy. I hear a kid shout, maybe in another yard behind the big hedge or else he's invisible. God's yellow face has a cloud on top. Colder suddenly. The world is always changing brightness and hotness and soundness, I never know how it's going to be the next minute. The cloud looks kind of gray blue, I wonder has it got rain inside it. If rain starts dropping on me I'll run in the house before it drowns my skin.

On adult wisdom:

My fingers are scuba divers. The soap falls in the water and I play it's a shark. Grandma comes in with a stripey thing on like underwear and T-shirt stuck together with beads, also a plastic bag on her head she says is called a shower cap even though we're having a bath. I don't laugh at her, only inside.

When she climbs in the bath the water gets higher, I get in too and it's nearly spilling. She's at the smooth end, Ma always sat at the faucet end. I make sure I don't touch Grandma's legs with my legs. I bang my head on a faucet.

"Careful."

Why do persons only say that after the hurt?

On stress and parenthood:

In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time. Even Grandma often says that, but she and Steppa don't have jobs, so I don't know how persons with jobs do the jobs and all the living as well. In Room me and Ma had time for everything. I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter over all the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there's only a little smear of time on each plate, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit.

Also everywhere I'm looking at kids, adults mostly don't seem to like them, not even the parents do. They call the kids gorgeous and take a photo, but they don't want to actually play with them, they'd rather drink coffee talking to other adults. Sometimes there's a small kid crying and the Ma of it doesn't even hear.

Can I just tell you that this does not end badly? I hate spoilers, but I'm afraid many will shy away from this extraordinary tale simply because they don't want to read something sad and upsetting.

You can read this book. I hope you will read this book.

The Holocaust was sad and upsetting (to say the least). But The Book Thief was one of the best books I have ever read.

Room is one of the best books I have ever read.

Riveting. Tender and powerful at the same time, yet not depressing or maudlin.

This is a book I want to discuss with my book club.

This is a book I want to discuss with my "regulars" at the store.

This is a book I want you to read.

I don't know if reading it will make you a better human being...or more aware of those around you. But it will touch your heart. And it will make you thankful for what you have. For what you may take for granted.

The sky.

The grass.

The rain.

The companionship of others.

This is an unpredictable, yet utterly plausible story.

Excellent sense of place.

Excellent narrative voice.

An original story.

This may very well be the best book I've read all year. Maybe even the best book I've read since Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief. Amazing story-telling. Amazing dialogue. Amazing characters. I can't stop thinking about Jack & Ma. What a fabulous novel!! Shortlisted for this year's Man Booker Prize, it so deserves the honor. I guess we'll have to wait until the 12th to see...

Go here to hear the author discuss and read from Room on NPR.

Final thoughts: Read this book.

October 3, 2010

Loving Frank


Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Historical Fiction
Debut
2007 Ballantine Books
Finished on 9/20/10
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)



Product Description

I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current.

So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.

In this ambitious debut novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America’s greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Cheney’s profound influence on Wright.

Drawing on years of research, Horan weaves little-known facts into a compelling narrative, vividly portraying the conflicts and struggles of a woman forced to choose between the roles of mother, wife, lover, and intellectual. Horan’s Mamah is a woman seeking to find her own place, her own creative calling in the world. Mamah’s is an unforgettable journey marked by choices that reshape her notions of love and responsibility, leading inexorably ultimately lead to this novel’s stunning conclusion.

Elegantly written and remarkably rich in detail, Loving Frank is a fitting tribute to a courageous woman, a national icon, and their timeless love story.

Hmmm, I not so sure about using the word courageous to describe Mamah in the above blurb. We're talking about a woman who basically abandoned her two young children for her lover. And that act was the hot topic of discussion at my book club two weeks ago. How could a mother behave so selfishly? Yes, we understood her unhappiness in her marriage and yes, we understood the difficulty of obtaining a divorce, but we could not understand how she could move to Europe, leaving her children behind to live with her estranged husband, burdening her sister to care for them when they so desperately missed her. Was she courageous to seek her own happiness over that of two small children? The consensus of our group was that it was a purely selfish act that none of us could fathom.

That said, we loved the book. Horan draws the reader in from the opening paragraphs and, other than a brief lull in the middle of the narrative, maintains the pace with believable dialogue and tension, causing this reader to quickly finish the final chapters with just a few hours to spare before the women arrived for book club.

Prior to reading Loving Frank, I knew nothing about Wright, other than having a general familiarity with a few of his architectural works. And I certainly knew nothing about Mamah Borthwick Cheney until the release of Horan's novel. So, the historical details of their affair and life together at Taliesin were quite revealing.



On her walk home, the snow stopped. She paused on the sidewalk to look at her house. Tiny iridescent squares in the stained-glass windows glinted back the late-afternoon sun. She remembered standing in this very spot three years ago, during an open house she and Ed had given after they'd moved in. Women had been sitting along the terrace wall, gazing out toward the street, calling out to their children, their faces lit like a row of moons. It had struck Mamah then that her low-slung house looked as small as a raft beside the steamerlike Victorian next door. But what a spectacular raft, with the "Maple Leaf Rag" drifting out of its front doors, and people draped along its edges.

Edwin had noticed her standing on the sidewalk and come to put his arm around her. "We got ourselves a good times house, didn't we?" he'd said. His face was beaming that day, so full of pride and the excitement of a new beginning. For Mamah, though, the housewarming had felt like the end of something extraordinary.



On Marriage and Motherhood:

For as long as Mamah could remember, she had felt a longing inside her for something she could not name. She had shoveled everything into that empty place—books, club committees, suffrage work, classes—but nothing filled it.

In college, and for a good period afterward in Port Huron, she'd had big ambitions. She had wanted to be a writer of substance, or maybe a translator of great works. But the years passed. She was nearing thirty when Edwin finally won her over. By the time she married him, she'd put those dreams to rest.

Back in Oak Park, living as a wife, she had done what all the women did: had children. She had truly wanted children—that was the main reason she'd married Ed. But there was a nanny now, and she had reverted to her old habit of retreating into herself, holing up to read and study. When she came out for a burst of socializing, everyone seemed pleased to see her. "Strong-minded" was a word she heard from time to time about herself. It meant brainy. But she heard "lovely," too.

On Writing:

She took her time translating Love and Ethics. She toyed with phrases, consulted her dictionary, framed and reframed sentences. She wanted to honor the work by getting it right. And when she did, when she poured the German translation of Ellen's wisdom through the filter of her own soul, when it distilled into elegant, persuasive English sentences right there on the paper, something very much like ecstasy came over her.




(top three photos from www.savewright.org)


On Taliesin:

Taliesin had come a long way since Mamah had arrived that first August day. There were windows in—large clear panes, with no stained glass because there was no need to block out the views. There was plaster on the walls. Rough-cut oak beams thrust out from interior walls of stacked limestone.

How different from the house on East Avenue, she thought. In Oak Park, the kind of building Frank had put up, despite being called a "prairie house," turned inward toward the hearth and family life and turned its back on the street, because there was no real prairie beyond the door, only other houses.

Here, Taliesin opened its arms to what was outside—the sun and sky and green hills and black earth. Far more than the house on East Avenue, this house promised good times. It was truly for her, with its terraces and courtyard and gardens so like the Italian villas she had loved. Yet it wasn't an Italian villa. It had elements of the prairie house but it was not one. Taliesin was original, unlike anything else she had ever been in—a truly organic house that was of the hill.

Final thoughts: A sure winner for any book club seeking a thought-provoking, albeit scandalous topic. A word of caution, though. Don't Google "Mamah Borthwick Cheney" if you don't want to spoil the conclusion of this novel. I'm glad I went into it completely unaware of the final outcome for this famous couple. Now to read T.C. Boyle's The Women!

Go here to listen to Nancy Horan discuss the relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney.