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  • Madina Papadopoulos 5:00 pm on 2017/12/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    5 Delicious Food Memoirs to Drool Over 

    Snuggling up with a good book in the cold is one of winter’s foremost delights. Cookbooks aren’t necessarily books readers can get lost in, but food lovers can stick to reading on their favorite subject by enjoying a flavor-packed food memoir. Grab a throw blanket and a cup of tea, and enjoy one of these satiating personal histories.

    Two Towns in Provence: Map of Another Town and a Considerable Town, by M. F. K. Fisher
    Like helpings, the only thing better than one memoir is two, particularly when written by preeminent food writer, M. F. K. Fisher. Having penned 27 fantastic books, Fisher is among the most renowned American food writers. Her culinary travels through California and France provided inspiration for her food anecdotes. Here, her tale of two towns, Map of Another Town and A Considerable Town are paired together, taking the reader to picturesque places like Aix-en-Provence and Marseilles. These memoirs will have you dreaming of the sights and smells of the south of France, if not booking a plane ticket.

    32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line, by Eric Ripert and Veronica Chambers
    Foodies flock to NYC to taste Eric Ripert’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Bernardin. At the upscale eatery, the Chef Ripert spoils and enchants diners with an array of delectable seafood, every bite a taste of la dolce vita. But Ripert’s life wasn’t always easy, and it was in his at times challenging childhood he found solace in his innate gift: cooking. The story is at once a tale about food and coming of age in the kitchen. And the book is much more accessible (and affordable) than a dinner at Le Bernardin.

    Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, & Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living, by Julie Powell
    Some people are more cinephiles than bibliophiles. But usually those film buffs enjoying reading the book the movie is based off of after having first savored the film. There are not that many food books as fiction books that are turned into movies but as luck would have it, this food blog/memoir was turned into a film: Julie and Julia. Starring Meryl Streep as the unique and charismatic food personality, Julia Child, the story follows a young woman, Julie, as she commits to cooking Child’s dishes daily for a year. Both movie and book are a delight, but we believe the book is best served before the film.

    Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace, by Ella Brennan and Ti Martin
    New Orleans is one of those cities that instantly conjures up images of food and fine dining. Just the mention of  “The Big Easy” sends déjà vu taste buds and smells swirling through the mind. And couple that with the surname, “Brennan,” well; brunch is pretty much served. The Brennan family of New Orleans has a long history as restaurateurs, among the most eminent is the inimitable Ella Brennan, leader of Commander’s Palace, first established in 1893. The book, whose colors recall the restaurant with its vibrant blue and white, follows the story of Brennan’s life and career. Brennan co-wrote it with one of her daughters (and restaurant partners), Ti Adelaide Martin.

    Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer
    If you like your memoir with a slice of investigative journalism, then Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer is the book for you. Do not sit down expecting a nostalgic recount of the days of old. Rather, the book dips into the more sour side of eating—the farming and treatment of animals. Foer makes an empathetic storyteller, he himself having attempted (and not always succeeded) to go vegetarian, battling his love of meat against his respect for animals. The book is a lot to digest, but is worth every word.

    What food memoirs have you savored?

    The post 5 Delicious Food Memoirs to Drool Over appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Madina Papadopoulos 5:00 pm on 2017/12/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    5 Delicious Food Memoirs to Drool Over 

    Snuggling up with a good book in the cold is one of winter’s foremost delights. Cookbooks aren’t necessarily books readers can get lost in, but food lovers can stick to reading on their favorite subject by enjoying a flavor-packed food memoir. Grab a throw blanket and a cup of tea, and enjoy one of these satiating personal histories.

    Two Towns in Provence: Map of Another Town and a Considerable Town, by M. F. K. Fisher
    Like helpings, the only thing better than one memoir is two, particularly when written by preeminent food writer, M. F. K. Fisher. Having penned 27 fantastic books, Fisher is among the most renowned American food writers. Her culinary travels through California and France provided inspiration for her food anecdotes. Here, her tale of two towns, Map of Another Town and A Considerable Town are paired together, taking the reader to picturesque places like Aix-en-Provence and Marseilles. These memoirs will have you dreaming of the sights and smells of the south of France, if not booking a plane ticket.

    32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line, by Eric Ripert and Veronica Chambers
    Foodies flock to NYC to taste Eric Ripert’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Bernardin. At the upscale eatery, the Chef Ripert spoils and enchants diners with an array of delectable seafood, every bite a taste of la dolce vita. But Ripert’s life wasn’t always easy, and it was in his at times challenging childhood he found solace in his innate gift: cooking. The story is at once a tale about food and coming of age in the kitchen. And the book is much more accessible (and affordable) than a dinner at Le Bernardin.

    Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, & Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living, by Julie Powell
    Some people are more cinephiles than bibliophiles. But usually those film buffs enjoying reading the book the movie is based off of after having first savored the film. There are not that many food books as fiction books that are turned into movies but as luck would have it, this food blog/memoir was turned into a film: Julie and Julia. Starring Meryl Streep as the unique and charismatic food personality, Julia Child, the story follows a young woman, Julie, as she commits to cooking Child’s dishes daily for a year. Both movie and book are a delight, but we believe the book is best served before the film.

    Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace, by Ella Brennan and Ti Martin
    New Orleans is one of those cities that instantly conjures up images of food and fine dining. Just the mention of  “The Big Easy” sends déjà vu taste buds and smells swirling through the mind. And couple that with the surname, “Brennan,” well; brunch is pretty much served. The Brennan family of New Orleans has a long history as restaurateurs, among the most eminent is the inimitable Ella Brennan, leader of Commander’s Palace, first established in 1893. The book, whose colors recall the restaurant with its vibrant blue and white, follows the story of Brennan’s life and career. Brennan co-wrote it with one of her daughters (and restaurant partners), Ti Adelaide Martin.

    Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer
    If you like your memoir with a slice of investigative journalism, then Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer is the book for you. Do not sit down expecting a nostalgic recount of the days of old. Rather, the book dips into the more sour side of eating—the farming and treatment of animals. Foer makes an empathetic storyteller, he himself having attempted (and not always succeeded) to go vegetarian, battling his love of meat against his respect for animals. The book is a lot to digest, but is worth every word.

    What food memoirs have you savored?

    The post 5 Delicious Food Memoirs to Drool Over appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Joel Cunningham 5:00 pm on 2017/12/14 Permalink
    Tags: , fire on the track, , roseanne montillo, the wilderness of ruin   

    Barnes & Noble Reads 2017-12-14 17:00:43 

    The booksellers who sit on the selection committee for our Discover Great New Writers program had a blast reading Roseanne Montillo’s Fire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women—and that includes booksellers who aren’t runners. Like Seabiscuit and The Boys in the Boat, Fire on the Track is an incredible—and timely—read, a perfect combination of well-researched history and inspirational storytelling.

    We asked Roseanne to take readers behind the scenes of Fire on the Track, and this is what she said…

    After watching figure skater Katarina Witt skating to Bolero during the 1988 Calgary games, I quickly signed up for figure skating classes. But I learned just as quickly that an icy surface, an ungainly figure, and a deep hatred for the cold would bring about the end of my short-lived Olympic dreams. Still, I continued to admire athletes: their discipline, their drive to succeed despite hurdles in their ways, and their devotion to hard work. Despite my lack of athletic ability, I identified with those qualities (in my case, those attributes would have to be channeled elsewhere).

    Eagerly, I tried to impart those same objectives to my students. Although most of the classes I taught were geared toward men and women, one in particular (called Love and Eroticism in Western Civilization) was primarily attended by female students. We mostly discussed works with female protagonists and as such, we talked about the issues that women encountered in literature and in life. Our discussions often spilled beyond the classroom; energized by the themes in our books, the students felt at ease speaking with me about gender and sexuality, misogyny in the workplace, poverty, racial bias, illness, abuse.

    Against the backdrop of these weighty conversations, I was also finishing another book, The Wilderness of Ruin. I was then not searching for a new subject, but looking thorough some archival material, some interesting articles caught my eye. One was from 1928, announcing that the Olympic trials would be held in Newark, New Jersey, during the Fourth of July weekend. It appeared that for the first time, the IOC, the International Olympic Committee, would allow female athletes to participate in Track and Field. The excuses for this lack of participation had been many, from the silly to the sinister. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the modern founder of the games, argued that the Games should be, as they had been originally in Greece, a stage solely for the display of male athleticism. Others had feared that the women’s reproductive organs would drop out of their bodies mid-course, disrupting the race; some even suspected the women would morph into men before the audience’s eyes.

    As I read how these young women were being depicted, not so much for their athletic abilities, but because they were women, I was offended. But just as offensive was the fact that these names were completely unknown to me, that they had been forgotten from most Olympic history. There was Helen Filkey alongside Nellie Todd, both from the Chicago contingent; Anne Vrana, from California; Jean Shiley, from Pennsylvania; Elta Cartwright, also from California and already so well known, she had earned the nickname of “Cinder-Elta.” And Betty Robinson, hailing from a Chicago suburb, a young woman who had been running for only a few short months, but of such exceptional abilities that people expected she would win the title.

    The young athletes shared a great deal of optimism, even after overcoming what seemed like insurmountable odds: from parents who wished their daughters would give up on these so-called masculine sports, to male coaches and teammates who hadn’t wanted them on their teams. In a not-so-subtle way, their concerns, expressed nearly a century earlier, reminded me of the same ones my students expressed. I came to admire the athletes for thinking not only about their own individual skills and future prospects, but their understanding that they were part of a team, working together for other young female athletes everywhere.

    Why hadn’t I heard about these athletes before? They had obviously made great strides for women in sports; why hadn’t I, and my students, been exposed to their achievements or their lives as shining examples of what women could do? Digging deeper, I noticed that part of the issue was that male athletes had been given more exposure in general, whether in newspapers or in magazines, and even when female athletes had been featured, they had been judged not on their scores and achievements (and if they were, they were often compared to the men; reporters were quick to point out how women came up short), but on how they looked. Things only got worse once the athletes got to the Olympics.

    Female athletes were appraised on whether they looked feminine enough in shorts and spiked shoes; whether their faces, in the throes of reaching the finish line, made them look too sexually unappealing; whether one of the medals should have been awarded to the athlete who came in fourth, as her blonde hair and pleasing figure would have made her a better Olympic representative. It didn’t take long for me to realize that these debates were still raging today. They weren’t even confined to sports. A college campus, as I discovered, was just as ripe.

    Fire on the Track is the culmination of my research. The book brings to life the personal lives and achievements of the athletes who paved the way not only in sports, but in other areas, too, empowering women with their strength, resolute character, and fearless determination.

    Fire on the Track is available now.

    The post appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2017/12/14 Permalink
    Tags: , best thrillers,   

    The Best Thrillers of 2017 

    It seems like every year turns out to be a Golden Age of Thrillers, and 2017 was no exception. In fact, we saw so many edge-of-your-seat thrillers with so many compelling characters, surprising twists, and heart-pounding action scenes it was tough to narrow it down to just 25. But we’re professionals. The 25 books on this list are all guaranteed to get the blood pumping and the palms sweating—and they’re just the tip of the thriller iceberg.

    The Dark Lake, by Sarah Bailey
    Rosalind Ryan’s transcendent beauty made her a legend in her small rural town, but many years later, it also made her a target. As an adult Rosalind returned to Smithson High School to teach drama, and when she turns up in a local lake, dead of strangulation, it falls to lead homicide investigator Gemma Woodstock to solve the mystery of her murder. Except Gemma is a former classmate of Rosalind’s, and unraveling the puzzle of Rosalind’s strange and lonely existence stirs up Gemma’s own murky, questionable past.

    End Game, by David Baldacci
    Baldacci’s fifth Will Robie novel flips the script a bit on his competent, deadly characters. When Will Robie and Jessica Reel’s legendary handler, Blue Man, goes missing after taking a rare vacation to go fly-fishing in a rural area of Colorado, the two deadly assassins are dispatched to investigate. They find themselves in the town of Grand, a festering place of economic decline, crime, drug wars—and a growing population of militia-style groups. They also find an inadequate police force unable to cope. They quickly realize there’s more going on in Grand than meets the eye, and by the time they realize that even they, two of the most dangerous people in the world, are out-gunned and surrounded it might be too late.

    Vicious Circle, by C.J. Box
    The 17th Joe Pickett novel starts off in high gear and never lets up, opening with Picket in a plane using infrared technology to track Dave Farkus, hunter and disability scam artist. Joe catches up with Farkus just in time to see the man shot to death. It doesn’t take long for Joe to identify the key suspect—Dallas Cates, sometime rodeo star who just got done doing 18 months in prison thanks to Farkus’ testimony. Cates makes little effort to hide the fact that he’s seeking the ultimate revenge against Farkus—and has assembled a team of meth heads, sociopaths, and other scary folks to do so. Joe finds both himself and his family included in Cates’ plans, and Cates proves to be smarter and more evil than Joe could possibly have suspected.

    Origin, by Dan Brown
    Brown returns to his most successful character with an all-new Robert Langdon adventure, this time centered in Spain and focusing on more modern art. Langdon starts off the book as the guest of former student-turned-billionaire Edmond Kirsch, who is staging a provocative presentation at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and hinting at the answers to two of the fundamental questions of human existence. Naturally, things go very, very wrong, and Langdon soon finds himself fleeing to Barcelona with museum director Ambra Vidal and working desperately to discover a password Kirsch left behind that will unlock all of the billionaire’s secrets. Their opponent, however, seems to be all-knowing, and firmly rooted in the Spanish royal palace—but there’s no one on Earth more equipped to deal with codes and symbols than Robert Langdon.

    Watch Me Disappear, by Janelle Brown
    In some ways a darker version of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Disappear centers on the sudden absence of a notoriously unreliable woman, Billie Flanagan, during a hiking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. With no body left behind, and very few clues to go on, her whereabouts are a chilling mystery. Billie’s teenage daughter, Olive, begins hallucinating that her mother is alive and needs her help, while Billie’s husband, Jonathan, has a different response to the disappearance, having recently discovered she may have been unfaithful. A perfect book for fans of Liane Moriarty, A.J. Banner, Gillian Flynn, and A.S.A. Harrison, this marital suspense story also stands on its own feet.

    The Stolen Marriage, by Diane Chamberlain
    Bestseller Chamberlain’s latest concerns an aspiring nurse trapped in a marriage-of-convenience in a small North Carolina town where she is disliked and mistrusted. It’s 1943, and Tess’s life just took a hard left: Impregnated by a man not her fiancée, she casts off her dream of a medical career alongside her true love and moves away with Henry, the baby’s father, who is uninterested in Tess’s potential. It soon becomes clear Henry is hiding things from Tess. With the polio epidemic in full swing, Tess gets a chance to use her nursing skills at last, but the home front remains as unsettling and mysterious as ever in this suspense-filled, World War II-era tale.

    The Midnight Line, by Lee Child
    Jack Reacher is once again stepping off a bus in a small town in the middle of nowhere, this time in Wisconsin. Stretching his legs, Reacher sees a West Point ring in a pawn shop window and is moved to find out what would make someone sell something so difficult to earn. His quest for the ring owner’s identity leads Reacher to cross several state lines as he assembles a story of service in Afghanistan, opioid addiction, and a huge criminal organization that Reacher, once he’s aware of it, has no choice but to take on. He manages to acquire an ally, however, in the form of the cadet’s brother, a former FBI agent-turned private detective, who’s one of those rare people Reacher feels he can count on, if only for a while. Along the way Reacher traces corporate complicity in the opioid crisis and the desperation that drives people to make bad decisions—all while dishing out violence the way only Jack Reacher can manage.

    Don’t Let Go, by Harlan Coben
    15 years ago, Napoleon “Nap” Dumas lost his twin brother Leo when he and his girlfriend, Diana, were hit by a train. This is terrible enough—but in a puzzling twist, Nap’s then-girlfriend Maura also disappeared at the same time. When evidence surfaces linking Maura to a murdered police officer, Nap begins to suspect that his brother’s death wasn’t an accident. His investigation leads him to look up the other members of a high school group called the Conspiracy Club—and he soon realizes that someone else is also tracking down the club’s members as well…and killing them.

    Two Kinds of Truth, by Michael Connelly
    Connelly returns to the world of Harry Bosch with a pair of mysteries. Three decades ago, Bosch was convinced a man named Preston Borders was guilty of raping and murdering three young women, but the district attorney only pursued one case, convicting Borders of the murder of Danielle Skyler. Borders has been on death row ever since, but suddenly new DNA evidence seems to exonerate him, so he files a habeas corpus petition and seems determined to sue everyone involved. Bosch has nine days before the hearing to figure out what went sideways, but his efforts are complicated by the current murder he’s investigating, that of a pharmacist and his son, which has set off a chain reaction of revelations involving faked prescriptions. As Bosch prepares to go undercover as an addict for the first time in his life, even he might not be able to keep all of the clues straight.

    The Cuban Affair , by Nelson DeMille
    Set in 2015, just as relations between the United States and Cuba were beginning to warm up, DeMille’s latest digs into the side of the story that often gets overlooked: the Cuban expats living in the U.S. who hate the Castro regime and who abandoned their property, wealth, and standing when they fled. Daniel “Mac” MacCormick is a veteran of Afghanistan trying to make his way out from under a mountain of debt with his charter boat business in Key West—and failing. When he’s offered a lot of money to assist in the recovery of money and documents from a remote cave in Cuba, he agrees out of desperation, ferrying a beautiful woman to Havana. When things go wrong, Mac finds himself depending on her—without knowing if he can trust her one bit.

    The Child Finder, by Rene Denfeld
    Naomi Cottle was kidnapped as a child—although her memories only begin with a flight through a dark strawberry field. Raised in foster homes, she is still broken by things she can’t remember, and has dedicated her life to being a “child finder,” called in by devastated families to find missing children when the trail has grown cold. Naomi never gives up, sometimes finding the children dead, sometimes alive. When she’s called in to search for Madison Culver, who disappeared three years before and is presumed to have frozen to death, the family is still holding out hope. And rightly so—as Naomi struggles to stay connected to her foster family and her sense of self, Madison begins narrating her terrifying imprisonment with a man she calls “B.”

    Hardcore Twenty-Four, by Janet Evanovich
    As her many fans are aware, to know Stephanie Plum is to love her. Evanovich’s long-running series following the madcap exploits of Jersey’s most illustrious bounty hunter takes a spooky turn when headless bodies begin turning up left and right. Although initially they’re corpses from the morgue, when a homeless man is found murdered and decapitated, someone has clearly upped their creepy game, Stephanie is compelled to take the case. In the meantime, she’s bunking with professional grave robber Simon Diggery and his pet python, and concerned about Grandma Mazur’s online dating escapades. Tall blonde and handsome Diesel is also back in town, which is stirring things up for Stephanie and her perennial paramours, sexy cop Joe Morelli and the enigmatic Ranger. Treat yourself to the latest mystery in the Plum series!

    Y is for Yesterday, by Sue Grafton
    Grafton’s famous Kinsey Millhone series is reaching the end of the alphabet, to the despair of legions of fans. Y is For Yesterday travels back to 1979, when four private school boys brutally assaulted a classmate—and the attack was filmed. The ensuing investigation resulted in the conviction of two of the perpetrators, although the main instigator behind the attack disappeared. Nearly twenty years later, one of the attackers is released from prison. Fritz McCabe is in pretty terrible shape, and he’s now being held a virtual prisoner by his parents. When he receives a copy of the video of the attack along with a demand for ransom, McCabe’s parents swing into action and consult with Kinsey Millhone, who is soon drawn into their convoluted family drama. In the meantime she’s also got a sociopath with a deep grudge to contend with. Fans know it’s just another day in the life of one of the best investigators in the genre.

    The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
    Grisham proves he’s still got his finger on the pulse in his newest, telling the story of idealistic but broke law students Mark, Todd, and Zola, who mortgage their future in the form of student loans to attend a third-tier law school. In their third year, the trio realizes they’ve been victims of the Great Law School Scam: the graduates of their school rarely pass the bar and almost never get jobs—and the school’s owner also owns the bank that wrote the paper on their loans. Naturally, smart nearly-lawyers go for the only option they have available: revenge. It’s going to take planning and risks (like dropping out before earning your degree) but it’s the only option if you want a little justice—and the result is an Ocean’s 11 for the LSAT crowd.

    Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz
    The diabolically clever Magpie Murders opens with the text of a classic whodunit set in sleepy English village; the latest novel in fictional author Alan Conway’s popular Atticus Pünd detective series. That mystery itself is absorbing enough, but things take a turn for the weird when editor Susan Ryeland must use the clues woven throughout it to solve a chilling real-life murder. Horowitz’s prose is elegant, his characters multifaceted and deeply human, and the ingenious construction of this brilliant puzzler (which pays homage to the classic whodunnit while taking it apart and reassembling it into something completely new) will leave you reeling. In his bestselling novels Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, Horowitz proved his knack for writing spellbinding stories, but Magpie Murders is a tour de force mystery-within-a-mystery that takes things to an astonishing new level.

    Mississippi Blood, by Greg Iles
    Iles’ concluding novel in the Natchez Burning trilogy starts off at a tense boil…and then somehow increases the tension. Penn Cage, now mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, finds himself—and his family—targeted by the Double Eagles, a splinter KKK group led by the loathsome and deadly Snake Knox. Penn’s father, Tom, heads to trial for the killing of his nurse and lover, Viola Turner, and Penn turns to author Serenity Turner for assistance chasing down witnesses. As the racial violence escalates, everyone’s commitment to their ideals is tested, and Iles brings all of the plot threads together in well-constructed trail scenes that offer plenty of surprises.

    The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, by David Lagercrantz
    Even from solitary confinement in prison, Lisbeth Salander is an unstoppable force in Lagercrantz’s second book continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. The prison she’s held in is poorly run, with the inmates more in charge than the guards, but her hacking skills and sharp intelligence mean she’s as effective inside as she was out. Her old ally Mikael Blomkvist visits once a week, and she passes him a lead related to her still-mysterious childhood: a respected stockbroker named Leo Mannheimer she believes is connected to the psychiatric unit where she was confined against her will as a child. As Blomkvist does what he does best, Salander turns her attentions to the injustices in her new home, as intolerable to her in prison as they would be in the free world.

    A Legacy of Spies, by John Le Carré
    John le Carré is not only back, he’s bringing George Smiley with him—or at least Smiley’s assistant, Peter Guillam, called upon to fill in the blanks on an old operation called Windfall, now that the British government is being sued over some of the unintended casualties of the Cold War. Guillam begins piecing together the truth behind Windfall, digging through old files, listening to interrogations, and supplementing these discoveries with his own reliable memories. As usual in a le Carré novel, the combination of meticulous detail, skillful spycraft, and moral blankness makes for a slow-boil thriller that slowly increases the tension to unendurable levels. The intelligence and (above all) patience of the men and women working in intelligence becomes as thrilling as any gunplay.

    Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane
    Lehane’s newest thriller focuses on Rachel Child, a successful television journalist raised by a manipulative mother who doesn’t realize just how damaged she is until an on-air nervous breakdown ends her career. In freefall, Rachel locks herself up in her house and never leaves. With time to think, she wonders about her father, whose identity her mother hid from her, and contacts a private detective to try to identify him. That detective, Brian Delacroix, becomes more than a hire for Rachel—he becomes, she thinks, her lover and salvation. When she begins to suspect he might not be everything he seems, the story really kicks into high gear, an Rachel proves to be a surprisingly dynamic character despite her isolated status.

    Earthly Remains, by Donna Leon
    When the usually careful and meticulous Commissario Guido Brunetti finds himself coming precariously close to losing his cool during an interrogation of a particularly prickly suspect, he is given a leave of absence from work. His wife Paolo convinces to take a breather at a relative’s villa on the quiet island of Sant’Erasmo, and there Brunetti befriends Davide, the house’s caretaker and a quiet man with a passion for beekeeping. But trouble follows, as it often does, and before long Brunetti finds himself investigating Davide’s disappearance. [Hint: Davide took a permanent leave of absence.] In the satisfying twenty-sixth installment of her beloved Guido Brunetti series, author Leon, known for immersing readers in the lush settings of her novels [typically the bustling city of Venice]—gives Brunetti time and space to ruminate on man’s place in the natural world.

    The Breakdown, by B.A. Paris
    Paris’ clever thriller pivots on a chillingly familiar premise: a woman named Cass sees a driver on the side of the road, trying to flag down help near a broken-down car. She drives past without stopping, then later learns the motorist was brutally murdered. She begins to receive phone calls during which no one speaks, and her fear she has inherited her mother’s early-onset dementia are brought to the fore as her grip on details—and her own memories—slips. She comes to rely more and more on her husband and her best friend, who never liked each other, but this is one of those books in which no one is above suspicion.

    Glass Houses, by Louise Penny
    A mysterious figure has appeared in the idyllic village of Three Pines, standing alone and stock still in the freezing November sleet. As the villagers, including Chief Superintendent Armand Gamache, grow increasingly perturbed and even frightened, the figure remains. Soon after it finally disappears, a body turns up, which is very probably not a coincidence, and it falls to Gamache to discover whether the killing is in fact a terrible retribution. Later that summer, the accused stands trial, but Gamache is forced to face the consequences of the actions he took during those fateful days in November. The 13th novel in Penny’s incomparable series ratchets up the tension to an almost unbearable degree.

    Deep Freeze, by John Sandford
    Sandford’s tenth Virgil Flowers story finds the Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent’s life complicated by another small town murder in Trippton, and the arrival of an agent of chaos. The murder victim is Gina Hemmings, who inherited her parents’ bank—and plenty of the potential suspects’ debts. Making things more complicated is the arrival of Margaret Griffin, a Los Angeles investigator who lands in town with the governor’s request that Virgil assist in finding Jesse McGovern, who is supposedly manufacturing sex dolls in Trippton—though no one seems to have ever met her. Virgil’s path to solving each mystery is as enjoyably bumpy as ever, but it’s Sandford’s grasp of small town culture that makes this entry sing.

    Good Daughter, by Karin Slaughter
    If you haven’t read Karin Slaughter yet, The Good Daughter is the perfect novel to jump onboard with…and if you’re a fan of fast-paced, gripping, and impossible to forget thrillers (see: the incredible Coptown), you should definitely be reading Karin Slaughter. In her latest standalone novel, Charlotte Quinn fought back against a harrowing childhood trauma by following in her father’s footsteps and becoming an attorney. But when another attack occurs nearly three decades later, Charlie is powerless to stop a flood of terrible memories from that tragic incident, which destroyed her happy family and left her mother dead. You won’t know where this one is going, but one thing is for sure: you’ll follow this author anywhere.

    Heather, the Totality, by Matthew Weiner
    Weiner, creator and showrunner of Mad Men, has crafted a sharp, character-driven debut novel that examines class and parenting with equal power. Heather, smart and beautiful, has been doted on by her mother since birth, causing a rift between her parents. Heather is also increasingly aware of the gulf between her family, the owners of an upscale apartment building in Manhattan, and the people who work for them—including a construction worker, Bobby, whose appearance isolates him. Heather sees Bobby as a way to bridge the gap, but her father sees a threat in how Bobby looks at his daughter, and tensions rise in complicated ways.

    The post The Best Thrillers of 2017 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Joel Cunningham 2:00 pm on 2017/12/13 Permalink
    Tags: a land more kind than home, , , not his last ballad, the dark road to mercy, ,   

    Unlocking Character: A Conversation with Wiley Cash 

    In 2012, Wiley’s Cash’s novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, wowed readers and critics and booksellers, including those who sit on the selection committee for our Discover Great New Writers program. A Land More Kind Than Home is a classic Southern Gothic that uses a trio of voices to tell the story of a young man’s coming of age in the wake of tragedy; it’s a novel that so assured, it’s hard to remember that it’s actually Wiley’s debut.

    This Dark Road to Mercy, Wiley’s second novel, takes a less gothic, more noir, turn with the story of a man whose well-intentioned, but ultimately poor, choices endanger his family—and himself. This isn’t a story of black hats vs. white hats; it’s a layered story of living in the grey area, of meaning well and behaving badly, consequences be damned.

    Wiley’s still on the road talking to readers about The Last Ballad, and was gracious enough to give us a few minutes to talk shop via email.

    Where did The Last Ballad start for you?
    I grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina, completely unaware of the history of the mill. Firestone purchased the mill not long after the 1929 strike, which was one of the only communist-led strikes in American history. It turned the city upside down, people died, and families were run out of town. But by the time I was born in 1977, Gastonia had completely buried the story of the Loray Mill strike.

    It wasn’t until I went to grad school in 2003 that one of my professors learned that I was from Gastonia and mentioned the Loray Mill strike. I researched the name Loray Mill and was shocked to learn that the place I’d always known as the Firestone Plant was the epicenter of one of the most important labor movements in American history. It had all occurred in my hometown, and I had grown up knowing nothing about it. My mother and father were born and raised in mill villages close to Loray in 1945 and 1943 respectively, and they never heard about the Loray Mill or Ella May Wiggins, the woman who would become the face of the strike. This is not surprising, especially because they came of age during the Red Scare, when any mention of communism or anyone with supposed communist ties were reason enough to keep quiet.

    I was raised in Gastonia during the Cold War, and many of those restrictions still applied. This is to say that the silence surrounding the history of the strike was a confluence of things: in 1929, society was turned upside down when the poor organized to make demands of the rich; the strikers were led by avowed communists; people were shot and killed. Gastonia wanted to forget that story. The city is just now beginning to come to terms with its own legacy. It made me realize that history is not a fixed thing, and it made me understand that politics and public sentiment can dictate what is retained and what is lost.

    Why did you decide to switch to Historical-Capital-H fiction? (The obvious answer being why not, you’re a writer…)
    Something about this story pulled me back. My previous novels were historical in a sense that they were grounded in their historical moments. A Land More Kind Than Home was set in the 1980s, which was the era that showcased the rise and fall of the southern televangelist, and This Dark Road to Mercy was set in the summer of 1998 against the backdrop of the McGwire/Sosa homerun race, which, I would argue, was the last time Americans were united by something positive.

    But The Last Ballad was set in the distant past in the summer of 1929, a very different era than the 80s or 90s. Because the novel is based on a real event that unfolded over the course of that summer, I was shackled to that period. But there was also great freedom and joy in writing this novel because of its reliance on history. It was fascinating and disheartening to find so many connections between now and then: gender inequality, especially in terms of pay; racial violence fueled by white supremacy; the growing divide between rich and poor that presaged the even greater divides to come during the Depression.

    The historical moment also gave me some real direction in creating characters and considering what their daily lives would have been like. Obviously, the greatest challenge was getting it right, whether it was mill technology, period dress, automobile culture, or language. I did an incredible amount of research, but it was a joy, and it took me away from the page, which is right where writers need to be sometimes.

    What do you mean when you say the research “took you away from the page?” Don’t you need to be grounded in the details before you get to the heavy lifting: characters, narrative structure…?
    It took me away from the page in that it gave me a break from grinding out words, and it was a break that did not feel like a distraction or an indulgence. As you mentioned, it also gave me a way to be grounded in the story and the events, but research is an intellectual exercise, whereas writing is a surprisingly physical and emotional exercise. Sometimes it’s nice to get a break from that, and it’s great when that break contributes to the larger work of your book.

    Did you start with the story idea or Ella Mae’s voice?
    Both, kind of, I started with Ella May and I questioned why I had never learned the true story of a woman who was a feminist and civil rights leader before those terms were staples of the progressive movement. She was the face and later the martyr of one of the most significant labor struggles in American history, which happened to take place in my hometown, but I didn’t hear her name until I was in graduate school in Louisiana when I was twenty-five years old. I was horrified. Once I decided to write about her I struggled with how to tell her story.

    When I was on book tour for A Land More Kind Than Home, my friend and fellow writer Ben Fountain (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk) and I drove from Austin to Houston for some overlapping events. Ben’s a North Carolina native and, unlike me, he’d heard of the strike and knew some things about it. He suggested, and suggested strongly, that I tell Ella’s story against the backdrop of the strike.

    I didn’t tell him at the time, and I don’t think I’ve told him since, but I fought that advice. The challenge seemed too big. How would I set Ella’s journey from the Tennessee mountains to the mill towns of the North Carolina piedmont, along with the many tragedies she faced, against the story of the strike, which unfolded relatively quickly in only a few months? To be honest, I had a difficult time “finding” Ella in the story of the strike, although there is no doubt that she was its central character and leader. As a way to find Ella on the page I created other characters—an African American labor organizer from New York City, a progressive mill owner who is forced to act against convictions, Ella’s oldest daughter decades after her mother’s death—and I watched Ella as she passed through their lives.

    It was fascinating. I had never realized a character by fixing her in the perception of other characters. It unlocked Ella and showed me connections between her and other important people that I may have never discovered had I forced her to take center stage too early.

    It’s a terrific device, developing Ella through the POV of the other characters. Is that what made you switch to the third person POV for The Last Ballad?
    I made the switch because I wanted there to be some historical distance between the events of the strike and the narration of those events. First person offers such immediacy, such heat. Third person is a little cooler, and a little more distant, a little more sweeping in terms of perspective. That’s how I wanted the novel to feel. I wanted to be able to zero in on those deeply emotional moments between characters, but I wanted the reader to feel part of it instead of feeling the heat from someone else’s first person relation of events.

    Although they’re not stories, A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy were both in first person. I’ve written a few short stories, most of them unpublished, in first person. It felt like a very natural way to write those initial novels, but The Last Ballad felt more sprawling, less narrow. It was my first real attempt at sustained third person, especially with so many characters, but I feel like it worked. The only first person in the novel is in the voice of Ella’s daughter Lilly, decades a later when she’s a much older woman.

    I modeled Lilly’s voice after Gail Godwin’s narrator in her brilliant novel Flora. I love that book so much. Gail was one of the first people to offer me a blurb for A Land More Kind than Home, and she’s gone out of her way to be kind to me in the years since. She’s a wonderful person and a foundational writer for those of us who are writing about contemporary Appalachia without the rosy glasses.

    Lilly’s voice is fantastic.
    Lilly’s voice was a lot of fun, and writing is felt transcendental. When I sat down I was able to channel her and hear her so clearly, and I was able to see her in the young girl who is portrayed in the earlier chapters that are set in 1929. She’s the same smart, tough woman whether she’s thirteen or eighty-nine. The challenge was tracing her knowledge of events and evolution of self over those many decades.

    Characters in realistic fiction, at least the kind I’m trying to write, are not static. They are dynamic, and they have to be shown evolving as people while still hewing to some basic characterizations that will allow readers to take that journey with them, confident that the character, at various stages of her life, is still the same person. Lilly is also a person who learns a lot about herself and her family’s struggle over the course of the novel. Each time she was on the page she was burdened by a different set of facts, and I had to be keenly aware of what she knew and what may be on her mind each time I put her on the page.

    Who doesn’t love fierce Ladies-of-a-Certain-Age? Lilly’s such a product of the place and the time and her family’s circumstances. The poverty is brutal in The Last Ballad, and yet your characters are all matter-of-fact about it—they certainly don’t like it, but there’s very much a feeling of this is just how things are. What surprised you the most as you were writing The Last Ballad?
    That may have been what surprised me. We have to keep in mind that this was a time in which there were no safety nets for impoverished families. There were no workplace protections. Racial and gender discrimination was legislated. There were roadblocks to humanity, to realizing one’s agency, and potential. Self-actualization for women and African Americans was warned against, even violently punished. These threats gave rise to incredible power, the kind of power that comes from righteous indignation, anger, and desperation. This is what fueled Ella May. It’s what made her get on a stage and tell the story of her struggle before mill owners who wanted her dead. It’s what made her demand integration in a union that was violently opposed to it. She was brave, but it was more than that: she was angry and desperate and convicted. And she was right.

    She still is.

    No one expected anything from Ella Mae, ever, did they? And even Ella Mae is surprised by the way events shake out, isn’t she?
    No, no one expected much from her. I think she even surprised herself as she slowly became aware of how dynamic and talented she was. Here is a woman earning $9 for a 72-hour workweek and living in utter poverty taking on corporate bosses in a state that is dominated by mill interests. She’s the ultimate underdog, and she’s the ultimate hero.

    That’s part of what’s so shocking about so much of what happens in TLB: the hardscrabble day-to-day, the callousness. Ella Mae really just wants to make things better for her family. She’s not thinking about making history, is she?
    No, that would’ve been far from her mind, especially because her concerns were so immediate and so dire. This phrase is thrown around a lot, but she was ahead of her time in every conceivable way.

    Watching how women move through The Last Ballad – not just Ella Mae, but also her friend and neighbor, Violet; or Miss Myra, or Claire and Katherine McAdam—their lives are so prescribed (in some cases, the women themselves are putting limits on what they can or will do), is sometimes shocking for a modern reader, though the emotional truths behind their stories is timeless. What did you learn from these women while you were writing?
    In terms of female characters, the three most important are Ella, her old friend Violet, and her new friend Katherine. As we’ve discussed, Ella is a poor white single mother who is swept in a violent mill strike and becomes the somewhat unwitting face of it. She quickly comes to terms with her new celebrity and the agency her bravery has earned her. Her friend Violet is a poor African American neighbor, but she’s also very self-possessed and bold. She may face the most discrimination due to her race and gender, but she’s also more outspoken about it and aware of it and engaged with it on a day to day basis because she has to be to survive.

    On the other hand, Katherine, the wife of a wealthy mill owner, sees Ella and Violet’s poverty as a type of freedom. They’re unmarried, they don’t face the trappings of wealth and social status. She feels more trapped inside her gilded cage than she believes they are trapped inside their poverty. She completely romanticizes their struggle, and their plight becomes her pet project. What I learned from them is the same thing that I’ve learned from the strong women in my life: there’s a connection that is forged between them because of the circumstances they often find themselves rallying against.

    Bessemer City and Stumptown (the part of town that Ella Mae and Violet live in) are almost characters in their own right in TLB. Like Ella Mae, Jess/Adelaide/Clem from A Land More Kind Than Home are all seriously connected to their community; Wade, Brady and Pruitt of This Dark Road to Mercy have no real sense of place behind them—is place the key to your characters’ development?
    Place is always central to my writing because it’s been central to my development as a writer and person. I had never thought of the dichotomy of my characters that are anchored to place as opposed to those who seem unmoored, but your reading of them makes perfect sense. I do feel that my characters who know the place they’re from and cling to it in some way are more interesting and more steady. There’s something about being of a place that makes a character feel real to me, and I only want to write about and spend time with characters who feel real.

    You’ve written three novels in less than a decade. Is there something you’ve learned while writing each one that you’ve applied to the next? (Presuming you’re already working on whatever comes after The Last Ballad…)
    While writing A Land More Kind Than Home I learned how to take three strong characters with distinct voices who all imparted separate sets of knowledge and forge them into what I hope feels like a cohesive narrative. I really struggled with the evolution of plot in that novel, but by the end of it I feel like I came out knowing how to carry tension from one scene to the next.

    That really influenced my writing of Dark Road, which is a more plot-centric novel. In that book I featured a first-person narrator who is deeply troubled and capable of incredible violence. I learned to let go of my fear and allow characters like him to take the lead.

    With Last Ballad I learned how to construct a “scene” around a character at rest. You may notice that nearly each time you meet a new character she or he is seated or otherwise not moving. I wanted their intellect, emotional range, sense of history, etc. to be the way that readers conceptualized them. Each character is introduced by the thoughts or memories she or he is having when they first appear in the novel. That’s where they’re all grounded.

    Gail Godwin isn’t the only writer who’s influenced you. Can we talk about Ernest Gaines for a minute? A Lesson Before Dying is a modern classic, the story of a young teacher and the bond he forms with an inmate on death row; set in the 1940s, published in 1983, Gaines’s masterpiece reads like it was written last year. (Much like the story Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin, first published in 1957, and collected in Going to Meet the Man. A Lesson Before Dying reads like it was written very recently.)
    Ernest Gaines and his work has meant everything to my development as a writer and literary citizen. I first read his fiction when I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. Although he was writing about the African American experience in southwest Louisiana in between the wars, I saw a similarity in the way his characters worked and revered land and the ways my grandparents talked about working and revering land. I felt a connection to his fiction and evocation of place that I didn’t feel to other writers. This is the reason I decided to attend graduate school at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette where he served as writer-in-residence for decades. I studied under him, and we became friends. I visited him and his wife over the summer. His work exemplifies the dignity of the human spirit in the midst of struggle: the struggle to survive, to maintain cultural traditions, to cling to land that runs the risk of being taken. Him putting words on the page is an act of reclamation.

    I’m always reading one of his books. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I can say that I learned a lot from his novel Of Love and Dust and the stories in Bloodline. From his fiction I learned how to use dialogue to impart information to both a character and the reader. Nothing is wasted in Gaines’s work. Characters do not only talk to one another, and scenes are never designed simply for the reader’s benefit. In his work there is an incredible sense of shared experience between the characters and the reader.

    You’re just finishing a massive tour; what have you learned from your readers?
    This book tour has been looooong. I’m in Atlanta right now, and I’ll be in Ohio in a few days. But it’s been a blast. We hosted 600 people at the release event in Asheville NC where musician Shannon Whitworth sang and played some of Ella’s music and Charles Frazier and I talked about historical fiction and strong female characters. After that, book tour took me all over the country for something like 35 events. I’ve got a few left in me. It’s been a blast. I published a very political novel at a very tumultuous political moment in American history, and conversations about where we are and where we were have dominated the Q&A at my events. My readers are politically and culturally engaged, and I’ve learned a lot from them.

    What’s next?
    Next? Next is a nap. And then another event tonight.

    The Last Ballad is available now.

    The post Unlocking Character: A Conversation with Wiley Cash appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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