December 28, 2010

Left Neglected Reminder

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova goes on sale next Tuesday (January 4th)! In case you missed it, my review can be found here. This may be the best book I read in 2010. Don't miss it!

December 26, 2010


I awoke
this morning
with devout
thanksgiving for
my friends, the
old and the new.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

December 21, 2010

Movie News - The Help


DREAMWORKS STUDIOS and participant media

Website and Mobile site:

Genre: Drama

Rating: TBD

U.S. Release date: August 12, 2011

Cast: Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone

Director: Tate Taylor

Producers: Brunson Green, Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan

Executive Producers: Tate Taylor, Mark Radcliffe, Dean Jones, Nate Berkus, Jennifer Blum, Jeff Skoll, Mohamed Khalef Al-Mazrouei

Screenplay by: Tate Taylor

Based on the novel by: Kathryn Stockett

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, “The Help” stars Emma Stone (star of the breakout hit, “Zombieland”) as Skeeter, a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives—and a small Mississippi town—upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Academy Award® nominee Viola Davis (“Eat Pray Love”) stars as Aibileen, Skeeter’s best friend’s housekeeper, who is the first to open up—to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter’s life-long friendships hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their stories—and as it turns out, they have a lot to say. Along the way, unlikely friendships are forged and a new sisterhood emerges, but not before everyone in town has a thing or two to say themselves when they become unwittingly—and unwillingly—caught up in the changing times.

Based on one of the most talked about books in years and a #1 New York Times best-selling novel, “The Help” is a provocative and inspiring look at what happens when a southern town’s unspoken code of rules and behavior is shattered by three courageous women who strike up an unlikely friendship.


December 16, 2010


I just received a belated birthday gift this morning. It's from my 19-year-old nephew. Enjoy!

December 12, 2010

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
2010 William Morrow
Finished 11/29/10
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
FTC Disclosure: Barnes & Noble Recommends ARC

Barnes & Noble Blurb:

A Suspenseful Tale of Fate and Friendship.

When Larry Ott finds an intruder in his own home, the gun that’s jammed into his chest seems like the last draw of his lonely destiny. Folks in Chabot, Mississippi, had wished him dead for more than 20 years—ever since he’d taken Cindy Walker for a date at the drive-in and she was never heard from again.

But growing up an unsure, book-loving boy in the culture of hunters and hard-drinking mechanics, Larry was something of an outcast long before Cindy disappeared. Even Larry’s mother knew it, praying each night for God to send her son a “special friend.” When Silas Jones and his mother moved from Chicago into an abandoned cabin on the Ott family’s extensive property, Larry thought God might be listening. The boys were drawn together despite their differences: Silas was fascinated by Larry’s gun collection and his retelling of Stephen King’s horror stories; Larry was intrigued by the young black boy’s prowess at baseball and his social ease. Yet with racism still rampant in the rural South in the late 1970s, family and peer pressure forced the boys to keep their relationship hidden, until Larry was suspected of killing the missing girl and their bond was irrevocably broken.

Years later, they’re reunited by fate when another young girl disappears. While Larry lies in a hospital bed suspected of both murder and attempted suicide, Silas, now the town’s constable, must plunge into the painful past and excavate a long buried secret to make peace with a the man who was once his friend—before it’s too late.

Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird, Mudbound and The Help are sure to fall in love with Franklin’s literary thriller. I could not put this book down! And I was shocked to see that I didn’t mark a single passage of this beautiful book. Perhaps I was too engrossed to stop and find a sticky note! However, I did, however, find this fabulous excerpt from the Barnes & Noble Recommends’ brochure:

Out the row of windows in front of him were more tables and chairs and, beyond, the gully overflowing with kudzu, trash caught in it like bugs in a spiderweb. Silas remembered riding the school bus as a boy, after they’d left the cabin on the Ott land and moved to Fulsom, how the landscape blurred beyond the windows as you rode, him on his way to school, baseball, his future. Maybe, before its recruitment to bar service, he’d ridden this very bus. Now look out. Nothing but a gully full of weeds and garbage. Everything frozen. Was that what childhood was, things rushing by out a window, the trees connected by motion, going to fast for him to notice consequences? If so, what was adulthood? The bus stopping? A man in his forties, slammed with his past, the kudzu moving faster than he was?

OK, thumbing back through the book, I found this:

Rather than his father's tall pitcher's physique and blond curls and dark skin and green eyes, Larry got Uncle Colin and his mother's olive skin and straight brown hair and brown eyes with long lashes which, attractive on women, made Larry and Uncle Colin soft and feminine, seat belt users who ate tilapia.

Isn’t that a great description?

Now that I know the details of the mystery, I need to re-read this book for the beautiful prose.

From the back cover of the ARC:

Tom Franklin’s talent has been hailed by Philip Roth, Dennis Lehane, Richard Ford, Lee Smith, and Rick Bragg. Reviewers have called his books “ingenious” (USA Today), “unique” (Entertainment Weekly), “compulsively readable” (Memphis Commercial Appeal), and “brilliant” (Chicago Tribune). His narrative power and flair have been compared to the likes of Harper Lee, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy.

Pretty amazing praise, don’t you think?

I’m tucking this book away on my keeper shelf. I think it might be a good read to discuss with friends. Maybe I’ll buy a dozen or two copies to give this Christmas…

I loved this novel and would like to see more written about Silas. I also think this would make a beautiful movie.

SuziQ also loved this book. She writes:

The descriptions and imagery are the kind of writing that makes me stop on a regular basis and reread a paragraph just for the words…The writing had the same magic for me as Franklin’s first novel “Hell at the Breech” without being quite as brutal. There was a paragraph near the end that nearly melted my brain because it was such powerful imagery that struck a chord with me…I loved the cover, I loved the story, I loved the writing and I plan to reread it after I pass it along to the two usual recipients of my best reads (The Hubster and my Sister-in-Law).

So, have we convinced you?

December 7, 2010

Moonlight Mile

Jenclair wins a copy of this book!

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
2010 William Morrow
Finished 11/10/10
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
FTC Disclosure: Acquired from Shelf Awareness

I am just living to be lying by your side
But I'm just about a moonlight mile on
down the road
~ Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, "Moonlight Mile"

Angie wasn’t just my partner. She wasn’t just my best friend. And she wasn’t just my lover. She was all those things, sure, but she was far more. Ever since we made love the other night, it had begun to dawn on me that what lay between us—what in all probability had lain between us since we were children—wasn’t just special; it was sacred.

Angie was where most of me began and all of me ended.

Without her—without knowing where she was or how she was—I wasn’t merely half my usual self; I was a cipher. (from Sacred)

They’re back!!!!

It was eight years ago that I first fell in love with Kenzie and Gennaro. Immediately after finishing A Drink Before the War, I dove right into the subsequent sequels with little time between each. Darkness, Take My Hand; Sacred; Gone, Baby, Gone; and Prayers for Rain (the latter of which I believe is Lehane’s best work in this series) kept me entertained and I was heartbroken as I read the final pages, having learned that Lehane had decided to end the series.

I think Spade and Marlowe remain icons because they didn’t wear out their welcome. Would Chandler be Chandler if he'd written 18 Marlowe books? I don’t know, but I wonder. Maybe Chandler could have sustained the level of quality, but the issue is more whether I can. And I have my doubts about that. The only artsy, metaphysical aspect of my approach to writing is that I can only write about characters when they come knocking on the door and tell me to. Patrick and Angie stopped knocking after Prayers for Rain. If they come knocking again, I’ll open the door and welcome them in with open arms because, well, they paid for my house and I’m exceedingly grateful. But if they don’t, then I'll be content to let them live happily ever after without my dropping another case-from-hell in their laps. They deserve that. (Lehane, from The Drood Review interview in 2002)

Well, I guess he missed his wise-cracking characters (or they missed him!) just as much as his fans did, and I was thrilled to snag an ARC of Moonlight Mile from Shelf Awareness earlier this fall. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the book to be nearly as lyrical or suspenseful as previous books in this series. I only marked one passage, and only because Gabby sounds a little bit like our granddaughter. Nonetheless, it was fun to catch up with Patrick, Angie and Bubba, and now I’m tempted to go back and re-read the entire series.

On life’s burdens:

We came out of the dark of the tunnel into the late afternoon traffic as the girls sang and clapped their hands to the beat. Traffic was light, because it was Christmas Eve and most people had either not gone to work or had left early. The sky was purple tin. A few flakes of snow fell, but not enough to accumulate. My daughter squealed again and both Bubba and I winced. It’s not an attractive sound, that. It’s high-pitched and it enters your ear canals like hot glass. No matter how much I love my daughter, I will never love her squealing.

Or maybe I will.

Maybe I do.

Driving south on 93, I realized, once and for all, that I love the things that chafe. The things that fill me with stress so total I can’t remember when a block of it didn’t rest on top of my heart. I love what, if broken, can’t be repaired. What, if lost, can’t be replaced.

I love my burdens…

I’m a deeply flawed man who loves a deeply flawed woman and we gave birth to a beautiful child who, I fear, may never stop talking. Or squealing. My best friend is a borderline psychotic who has more sins on his ledger than whole street gangs and some governments. And yet…

Oh, yeah. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Amanda McCready was four years old when she vanished from a Boson apartment in 1997. Desperate pleas for help from the child’s aunt led savvy, tough-nosed investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro to take on the case. The pair risked everything to find the young girl—only to have Kenzie orchestrate her return to a neglectful mother and a broken home.

Now Amanda is sixteen—and gone again. A stellar student, brilliant but aloof, she seemed destined to escape her upbringing. Yet Amanda’s aunt is once more knocking at Kenzie’s door, fearing the worst for the little girl who has blossomed into a striking bright young woman who hasn’t been seen in two weeks.

Haunted by the past, Kenzie and Gennaro revisit the case that troubled them the most, following a twelve-year trail of secrets and lies down the darkest alleys of Boston’s gritty, blue-collar streets. Assuring themselves that this time will be different, they vow to make good on their promise to find Amanda and see that she is safe. But their determination to do the right thing holds dark implications Kenzie and Gennaro aren’t prepared for… consequences that could cost them not only Amanda’s life, but their own.

I’ll be curious to hear how others like this final installment in the Kenzie-Gennaro series. Leave me a comment, if you’re interested in my ARC. I’ll draw a name on December 13th.