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Posts Tagged ‘I Still Dream About You’

I’ve been reading a lot more than writing the last couple weeks, not just books but everyone else’s lists of best books, favorite books, recommended reading, etc. Consequently, my own TBR list grows ever longer, and I will be writing to Santa about that.

But it occurs to me as I start wrapping up books for holiday gifts, there’s no way I’m going to be able to blog about all the recent titles I want to recommend before the year’s up. If you follow this blog, you already know many of my 2010 favorites. If you don’t, check the archives. Here, though, are the late arrivals deserving of ribbons and bows.

An Object of Beauty, by Steve Martin (Grand Central Publishing): Martin’s artful novel about the art world — auctions, galleries, artists, aesthetes, collectors, dealers — draws on his own experience as an experienced collector. Narrator Daniel relates the rise of the lovely Lacey, as charming as she is ambitious, as she deftly navigates New York’s social circles and art scene from the late 1990s to the present. Photographs of many of the art works in play are embedded in the text, making the hardcover book a most desirable object. 

The Black Apple’s Paper Doll Primer: Activities and Amusements for the Curious Paper Artist, by Emily Winfield Martin (PotterCraft/Crown Publishing): This one’s for my fellow Caroline Cousins, with whom I played catalog paper dolls for years. Both Meg and Gail are far craftier than I, but we all like playing with scissors and paper, and the whimsical dolls, costumes and nifty projects in this book are ready-made for rainy afternoons and let’s-pretend. We might share with the kids in the family.

Bloody Crimes, by James Swanson (Morrow): This one’s for my brother, who read Swanson’s Manhunt, about the search for President Lincoln’s assassin. Here, he continues the dramatic saga of the closing days of the Civil War, as Confederate Jefferson Davis flees the Yankees and Lincoln’s body is carried home to Illinois on a 13-day funeral train.

I Still Dream About You, by Fannie Flagg (Random House): Mom and I are sharing Flagg’s new novel, a warm-hearted mystery/comedy of manners as the real-estate market collapses in Birmingham, Ala. Maggie, a former beauty queen with a seemingly perfect life, plans to end it all before fellow agents Brenda and Ethel help her battle rival Babs, “the Beast of Birmingham.” Humor, romance, secrets from the past. No wonder’s it’s an “Okra Pick” by Southern booksellers.

It’s a Book, by Lane Smith (Roaring Books Press): For children ages 6-11, and for all of us readers in a digital age, here’s a sweet reminder to the wonder of turning pages. No batteries needed.

The Kneebone Boy, by Ellen Potter (Feiwel and Friends): My inner child has no problem declaring love for a witty, well-written tale for middle-graders. Otto, Clara and Max Hardscrabble know that people think they’re a peculiar trio because of their unusual family history. They also prove irresistible as they have unexpected adventures in London and a seaside village while perhaps solving the puzzle of their missing mother. Think Lemony Snicket meets Joan Aiken. Clever.

Rogue Island, by Bruce DeSilva (Forge/TOR): My sources tell me DeSilva’s debut mystery will hit home for all us ink-stained wretches, especially beat reporters, who have toiled in the newspaper trenches over the years. Liam Mulligan is an investigative reporter for a Rhode Island daily, which means he also covers cops, trend stories and dog tales at the behest of a city editor who makes Lou Grant seem like a cuddly puppy. There’s so much crime and corruption afoot, Mulligan’s reports on a series of neighborhood arsons fight for space above the fold. Read all about it!

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill): In the night silence of her isolated sick room, Bailey can hear the sound something very small crunching celery. It is her new companion, a wild snail, dining on a wilted flower on her bedside table. Bailey, totally bedridden by a mysterious motor neuron disease, becomes enchanted by the gastropod, closely observing its routines as time creeps by, well, like a snail. This small book, thoughtful and eloquent, belongs on the shelf with Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

Open Book: Let’s see. I received an ARC of Bloody Crimes, a review copy of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, won the The Black Apple’s Paper Doll Primer as part of a Facebook promotion, and bought copies of An Object of Beauty, I Still Dream About You, It’s a Book, The Kneebone Boy and Rogue Island. More to come.

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When Southern booksellers and publishers were in Daytona Beach last weekend for their annual trade show (SIBA), okra was on the agenda if not the menu. SIBA recently announced its dozen “Okra picks” for the fall season as voted on by independent booksellers, and I hear the chosen authors wore bright red sashes on the convention floor.

Alas, I was in South Carolina — where next year’s convention is scheduled — but, as it turned out,  I had two okra picks with me. Both were mighty fine in completely different ways.

Beth Webb Hart’s novels are set in my favorite home territory of the South Carolina lowcountry, in and around Charleston. Her first, Grace at Low Tide, took place on Edisto Island and made me homesick as all get out. Her third, The Wedding Machine, made me happy that the Caroline Cousins wrote Marsh Madness  first so we had already put in our two cents about Southern nuptials. 

Hart writes so-called “Christian fiction,” but the preachiest thing about her new novel, Love, Charleston, is that one of the four main characters is good ol’ boy Roy Summerall, who isn’t sure why he’s been called to pastor the aristocratic faithful of the Holy City at historic, downtown St. Michael’s. A widower with a young daughter, Roy isn’t sure how he’ll fit in, despite the the support of a church matriarch. That he and bellringer Anne Brumley are destined to find one another is obvious, but their path is not nearly as interesting as the ways in which it intersects and overlaps with those of Anne’s sister Alicia and her cousin Della.

Unlike Anne, both are married with children. But Alicia, a doctor married to another doctor, finds her charmed life falling apart after depression descends like a rock following the birth of a new daughter. Meanwhile Della, a writer and teacher married to an artist, would love to have another child, but finances are too precarious. When an old flame returns to town, she wonders how her life might have  been different, maybe still could be.  Doubt and betrayal, love and faith, rocks and hard places. Hart has a light touch and an easy humor, but she doesn’t hesitate to test her characters.

Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a gritty Southern drama of race and class, past sins and present crimes. It takes its title from the way kids often learn to spell/write  Mississippi: “M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I.”  

There’s something crooked about the lives of the novel’s two main characters — not in the sense of criminal, although some suspect that, but in that they are misshaped by a sad, shared boyhood incident. For sure, boookworm Larry Ott, son of a white auto mechanic and his wife, and Silas “32” Jones, son of a poor, black single mother, were unlikely buddies from the start, but the friendship worked for them until the night Larry took Cindy Walker to the drive-in and she disappeared.

Cindy wasn’t heard from again, and Larry still lives with a cloud of suspicion hanging over him and the business he inherited from his daddy. He keeps to himself in the shotgun house he grew up in. Silas took off to play college baseball but then returned as a constable in a nearby hamlet in South Misissippi. There’s no reason for the two to meet up, but then another girl goes missing, and the law looks to Larry once more.

Franklin writes lean, no words wasted, no punches pulled. As in his collection of stories, Poachers, and novel Hell at the Breech, he knows where he’s going and takes a reader with him.

At one point, Larry thinks of Silas, “how time packs new years over the old ones but how those old years are still in there, like the earliest, tightest rings centering a tree, the most hidden, enclosed in darkness and shielded from weather. But then a saw screams in and the tree topples and the circles are stricken by the sun and the sap glistens and the stump is laid open for the world to see.”

Open Book: I bought a copy of Beth Webb Hart’s Love, Charleston (Thomas Nelson) to give to Cousin Meg for her birthday. Tom Franklin’s publisher sent me an advance reading copy of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (Morrow). To see a list of the other fall okra picks, go to http://www.sibaweb.com/okra  I’ve already put Fannie Flagg’s November novel, I Still Dream About You (Random House), at the top of my wish list. Also, my fellow book blogger at http://bermudaonion.wordpress.com has started an Okra Picks challenge read. Check it out!

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