Thursday, January 21, 2016

AAP LibraryReads BookTalk Breakfast at 2016 ALA Midwinter Meeting

The third book-related event that I attended during the 2016 ALA Midwinter Meeting was the AAP LibraryReads breakfast, held on Monday, January 11, at the Seaport Hotel in the Lighthouse I room. I bumped into a colleague in the hotel lobby and we were directed back outside and across a parking lot to another building where the Lighthouse rooms were. Upon arrival we were greeted by the organizer and encouraged to take galleys of the books that were being promoted that day. After about 15 minutes of eating and chatting at our tables, the program began. Authors who were speaking and the books they were promoting included:

Photograph of author Chris Cleave
Chris Cleave
  • Adam Haslett. Imagine Me Gone. Based loosely on his parents' lives, with his father suffering from severe depression.
  • Ann Leary. The Children. Four step-siblings deal with the fallout from their father's death.
  • Simon Van Booy. Father's Day. An irresponsible man adopts his niece after her parents' deaths; as an adult she plans a trip to Paris to honor and thank him.
  • Helen Simonson. The Summer Before the War. Ms. Simonson is the author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand; this is her second novel.
  • Lawrence Hill. The Illegal. An African immigrant making his living by running and winning races.
  • Chris Cleave. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven. Mr. Cleave is the author of Little Bee.

I always appreciate the Association of American Publishers and the events that it holds for librarians at the ALA Midwinter and Annual Conference. Teaming up with LibraryReads, they promote the books and authors that are going to be of great interest to library patrons in the upcoming year. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bitter Sweets, by Roopa Farooki

In this 2007 first novel, author Roopa Farooki tells the story of three generations of a Bangladeshi-Pakistani-British family. Truth and deception are the major themes of the book. It begins when Henna, a poor 13-year old, conspires with her father to marry wealthy Rashid. His disappointment is immense when he found out the truth but he commits to the marriage, waiting until she's an adult before they begin a family. Their daughter Shona learns that deception is often more convenient than the truth and her children follow in the family tradition of telling lies. All of this deception leads to many years of unhappiness and unnecessary suffering for all.

In spite of the sober themes of this book, it's written in a lighthearted way that is very compelling for the reader. The characters are well-developed; their motivations clear albeit misguided. Most of them are quite likable which made me root for them throughout. At the end, Shona comes to realize the price that they've all paid for their many deceptions, and begins the healing process by telling the truth about key events in their lives.

I found the writing to be excellent and the pace good. The story never dragged, but it wasn't rushed either. Ms. Farooki takes her time letting us get to know each of the main characters. I enjoyed the book very much and intend to read more of Ms. Farooki's works. Bitter Sweets was short-listed for the Orange Award for New Writers in 2007.

Roopa Farooki. Bitter Sweets. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007. 354 pages. ISBN 9780312382063.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore, by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley departs from his more well-known crime fiction with this exploration of a woman's transformation as she leaves her career as an adult film actress. Debbie Dare's husband dies in a freak accident as he's "auditioning" a young girl in their home, and Debbie realizes that she no longer wants to continue the lifestyle that she stepped into when she was just fifteen years old. As she learns about how her husband has mismanaged their finances, she realizes that she has to pull together all her resources to be able to afford the funeral and pay off his debts.

As Debbie makes the transition back to Sandy (her real name), she reconnects with her mother and brothers, and makes plans to take back her five year old son who's been living with her sister-in-law. She calls on friends both inside and outside the porn industry to help her manage her affairs and fend off debt collectors. She begins to make new friends, always insisting that they know and understand her past. We go along with her as she struggles with keeping it all together or just giving up and committing suicide. I found myself rooting for her as she faces her challenges and tries to find out who she really is. I enjoyed this well-written novel that illuminates the difficulty and the courage it takes to turn one's life upside down.

Walter Mosley. Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore. New York: Doubleday, 2014. 265 pages. ISBN 9780385526180.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Antelope Wife, by Louise Erdrich

The Antelope Wife tells the interconnecting stories of many characters across generations. It begins with the tale of a post-Civil War raid on a Native American village. As soldiers kill the Native Americans, one of them notices a dog running away with a baby strapped to its back. He follows it for days before catching it and freeing the baby, which he ultimately raises as his own daughter.

Another story relates how a man fell so deeply and suddenly in love with a woman that he kidnapped her, in the process ruining both of their lives. He fails at everything he tries from that point forward until he eventually realizes that he has to free her.

One chapter is written from the point of view of a dog named Almost Soup. As a puppy he came close to being served up as dinner, but was saved at the last minute by a young girl who raised him.

There's an element of magic realism that runs throughout The Antelope Wife. I found it challenging to keep all of the characters straight, especially as the stories go back and forth in time and the characters' back stories are told from different perspectives. The stories are beautifully told and Ms. Erdrich shows her compassion as she illuminates the struggles that her characters face with love, hate, revenge, and daily life.

Louise Erdrich. The Antelope Wife. New York: HarperFlamingo, 1998. 240 pages. ISBN 0060187263.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

AAP LibraryReads Best in Debut Authors: 2016 ALA Midwinter Meeting

The Association of American Publishers collaborated with LibraryReads to host an event that spotlighted six new authors. Each author spoke for about 10 minutes about what libraries mean to them and how they got started with their first books. The books presented were:
  • Kaitlyn Greenidge: We Love You, Charlie Freeman.
  • Shobha Rao: An Unrestored Woman.
  • Trudy Nan Boyce: Out of the Blues.
  • Steve Toutonghi: Join.
  • Victoria Kelly: Mrs. Houdini.
  • Steve Rowley: Lily & the Octopus.
It amazes me that an author can talk about their background, love for libraries, and inspiration for their first book in just 10 minutes. Some of their comments were so heartfelt that they brought tears to my eyes. Shobha Rao spoke very passionately about the women who were kidnapped during the 1947 partition of India, and how they were "recovered" but never "restored." Steve Rowley discussed his love for his dachshund Lily and how writing the fictional Lily & the Octopus helped him heal after her death from a brain tumor. All of the authors were engaging and funny speakers. A great program!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

HarperCollins Title Presentation: 2016 ALA Midwinter

One of the benefits of attending the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting is having the opportunity to attend publisher presentations of new and upcoming titles. Usually they promote books that they think will be big hits over the next year, and which they're hoping libraries will acquire. I really enjoy these meetings because the editors are so enthusiastic about the books they're discussing. This morning I attended the HarperCollins title presentation, and learned about a lot of upcoming books, many of which I look forward to reading.

Some of the most exciting of their upcoming books are:
  • Louise Erdrich: LaRose. Especially exciting since I've been reading her lately.
  • Joe Hill: The Fireman. I loved his Heart-Shaped Box, and NOS4A2.
  • Jennifer Haigh: Heat & Light. She also wrote Mrs. Kimble, The Condition, and Faith, all great reads. 
  • Jacqueline Woodson: Another Brooklyn.
  • Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney: The Nest.
  • Paul Tremblay: Disappearance at Devil's Rock.
  • Nadia Hashimi: The House with no Windows.
  • Sally Thorne: The Hating Game.
  • Robin Wasserman: Girls on Fire.
  • and many more....
In addition to breakfast and handouts listing their upcoming books, HarperCollins generously provided each attendee with a tote bag containing four advance reading copies.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

More recent reads

Photo of Bailey and Bella, two Lhasa Apsos
Bailey and Bella (sitting up)
After adopting two Lhasa Apsos in November, I'm finding it difficult to keep up with my writing! These are Bella and Bailey, two 7-year olds whose original owner passed away. Their second family didn't keep them long because Bailey nipped at their grandson. So now they live with us and we're all trying to get acquainted. Incorporating two dogs with four cats has been interesting to say the least!

I've tried to keep up with my reading; it's just the writing that has suffered. Here's a list of my recent reads:

Robert Galbraith. The Silkworm. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014. 455 pages. ISBN 9780316206891. For my book club: we all loved it.

William Styron. Lie Down in Darkness. New York: The Viking Press, 1951. 400 pages. I picked this up for 50 cents at the State College chapter of the AAUW annual used book sale. It's been on the end of the shelf nearest my bed for a while, so after looking at it every day for nearly a year I broke down and read it.

Suzan-Lori Parks. Getting Mother's Body. New York: Random House, 2003. 257 pages. ISBN 1400060222. Loved it!

Terry McMillan. Mama. New York: Washington Square Press, 1987. 260 pages. ISBN 0671745239. Given how popular Terry McMillan is, I expected to like this a little bit more. This was her first book, so maybe her later efforts are better.

Sherman Alexie. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007. 232 pages. ISBN 031600202X. I wasn't bowled over by Alexie's novel Indian Killer, so I resisted this book for 8 years, but I loved it. I plan to read more now.

Colm Toibin. Brooklyn. New York: Scribner, 2009. 262 pages. ISBN 9781501106477. While the setting and historical realities described in Brooklyn are fascinating, I felt that this story was a little flat.

Louise Erdrich. Tracks. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1988. 226 pages. I didn't care much for Love Medicine, Erdrich's first novel, so I've put off reading others by her, but I loved this book. I will have to give Love Medicine another shot.

Michel Faber. Under the Skin. San Diego: Harcourt, Inc. 2001. 319 pages. ISBN 0156011603. I loved this creepy sci fi!