Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday Books

Police officer Jack Murphy sacrificed his life so his family could escape from what should have been a peaceful vacation away from turmoil. Now, his wife, Christie, and children, Kate and Simon, have nowhere to go but home to New York. However, home may no longer be safe from the Can Heads, humans who have become zombielike creatures. In this follow-up to Costello's previous novel, Vacation, communication networks have broken down, electricity is unreliable, and even the military does not provide much protection. While the characters hope that someday the government will discover what causes some people to become Can Heads, until then the Murphys are simply searching for someplace safe. VERDICT Costello creates a sense of urgency and fatigue as Christie tries to protect her family. He wastes no time with extraneous detail but keeps the pages turning with action and emotion that rings true. Readers need not have read the previous book, as this one works well by itself, but those who enjoy it will probably turn to more from the author. [Library Journal]

Introversion Is a Gift.

This clever and pithy book challenges introverts to take ownership of their personalities...with quiet strength. Sophia Dembling asserts that the introvert’s lifestyle is not “wrong” or lacking, as society or extroverts would have us believe. Through a combination of personal insights and psychology, The Introvert’s Way helps and encourages introverts to embrace their nature, to respect traits they may have been ashamed of and reframe them as assets.

You’re not shy; rather, you appreciate the joys of quiet. You’re not antisocial; instead, you enjoy recharging through time alone. You’re not unfriendly, but you do find more meaning in one-on-one connections than large gatherings.

By honoring what makes them unique, this astute and inspiring book challenges introverts to “own” their introversion, igniting a quiet revolution that will change how they see themselves and how they engage with the world.

It’s 1974 in DeKalb County, Illinois and the planets have failed to align for Roy Conlon. Widowed and broke, his eight-year-old son Eric is suddenly a mystery to him. The boy has become aware of a sky awhirl with stars and of the universe outside his small-Midwestern town. And as powerful forces pull Eric away, Roy’s efforts to hold onto his son are threatened by weakness, guilt, and his participation in a foolish crime.

Enter The Constellations, a novel of the diverging paths of a father and his son, and how each copes with the loss of the woman whose love and guidance held them together. Roy and Eric’s parallel journeys take them through a landscape populated by long shot players and kitchen sink philosophers, by ruthless thieves and fierce protectors. A compelling novel of small town America in the shadow of Vietnam and Watergate, Cunningham’s spare prose and deftly drawn heroes complete a portrait of our country reminiscent of Mark Richard and Jim Shepard. Scarred, divided, and damaged, his characters represent all of our false promises and failed dreams.

Self-help books don’t seem to work. Few of the many advantages of modern life seem capable of lifting our collective mood. Wealth—even if you can get it—doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. Romance, family life, and work often bring as much stress as joy. We can’t even agree on what “happiness” means. So are we engaged in a futile pursuit? Or are we just going about it the wrong way?

Looking both east and west, in bulletins from the past and from far afield, Oliver Burkeman introduces us to an unusual group of people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. Whether experimental psychologists, terrorism experts, Buddhists, hardheaded business consultants, Greek philosophers, or modern-day gurus, they argue that in our personal lives, and in society at large, it’s our constant effort to be happy that is making us miserable. And that there is an alternative path to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty—the very things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Thought-provoking, counterintuitive, and ultimately uplifting, The Antidote is the intelligent person’s guide to understanding the much-misunderstood idea of happiness.

In the stories of Gartner’s dexterous second collection (after All the Anxious Girls on Earth), set in or near Vancouver, Canada, the author turns her clever eye on a certain type of upper-class person: the food-snobbing, eco-obsessive, million-dollar-real-estate-negotiating, self-help-seeking yuppie. Two stories feature the collective voices of a suburban cul-de-sac’s residents as they witness how new people change their behavior. In “Summer of the Flesh Eater,” the presence of a crass, low-class, meat-loving man whose truck decays in the front yard pulls the entire town down a Darwinian rabbit hole. And the white parents of “The Adopted Chinese Daughters’ Rebellion” impose archaic Chinese customs, such as foot-binding, on their young, adopted daughters. These stories exemplify one of Gartner’s strengths: her fiction walks an ice pond’s thin skim between sadness and satire. Both begin with a tug of depression, a foreshadowing lament, and then delve into the rigidity of people’s “progressive” beliefs. The stories do not languish here, but rollick into the depths of dark humor and absurdity. Gartner’s themes are topical but never preachy, and she accents the ambiguities found in black-and-white arguments. Gartner delights in a little DeLilloesque postmodern trickery, imbuing new life and meaning to the everyday. It’s a sharp voice in this collection. Handle carefully. [Publishers Weekly]
In her transcendent debut, Uruguay-born Trasandes eloquently renders the passionate and heartrending love story of Kate Harrington, a bold, energetic young woman who, in the process of documenting young sex workers for her college thesis, addresses her own abusive past. Kate is the type of person who transforms the lives of anyone lucky enough to be part of her inner circle: first Louis, the shy, self-conscious guy she meets in high school, is captivated by her frank sexual talk and adventurous view of life, and blossoms through the course of their friendship. Some years later, Angela, a Latina from Southern California who is in Spain with Kate on their year abroad, comes to a moving discovery about her own sexuality when their friendship becomes something more. Trasandes begins her gripping tale with tragedy, then moves fluidly through time and space, illuminating Kate’s disturbing adolescence with her predatory stepfather, her joyous relationship with Louis, then Angela. It’s rare to root for all sides of a love triangle, but the author’s depth of insight into her characters makes this a wonderfully accomplished first novel. [Publishers Weekly]
Even readers unfamiliar with English novelist Nancy Mitford will enjoy the historical sweep of her life as captured by Hilton (Queens Consort). Not quite a straight biography, the book tells the stories, sometimes in parallel and sometimes intersecting, of Nancy and her muse and romantic partner, Gaston Palewski. A close confidant of Charles de Gaulle, Gaston defied humble origins to serve as a Free French commander during WWII and became a powerful politician afterwards. After meeting Mitford at a London garden party in 1942, he became her lover. Despite his many other conquests, the couple never quite extinguished their nonmonogamous bliss, though a late-in-life marriage to a young countess (fulfilling a lifetime of social climbing) ended the affair. By contrast Mitford, born to privilege if not wealth as a member of English nobility, palled around with Evelyn Waugh as her sisters Diana and Unity dallied with Nazism, and achieved fame of her own with the 1945 publication of The Pursuit of Love, which immortalized Gaston in fiction as the “ideal French lover,” Fabrice de Sauveterre. Hilton, in engaging fashion, argues that their relationship embodied the “civilized,” “rational” vision of love put forth in Mitford’s novels. [Publishers Weekly]

A multigenerational family saga that paints a sweeping portrait of twentieth-century Portugal

First published in 1980, the City of Lisbon Prize–winning Raised from the Ground follows the changing fortunes of the Mau Tempo family—poor landless peasants not unlike Saramago’s own grandparents. Set in Alentejo, a southern province of Portugal known for its vast agricultural estates, the novel charts the lives of the Mau Tempos as national and international events rumble on in the background—the coming of the republic in Portugual, the two World Wars, and an attempt on the dictator Salazar’s life. Yet nothing really impinges on the grim reality of the farm laborers’ lives until the first communist stirrings.

Finally available in English, Raised from the Ground is Saramago’s most deeply personal novel, the book in which he found the signature style and voice that distinguishes all of his brilliant work.

4 comments:

Tamayn Irraniah said...

Seriously, I think you're secretly doing some sort of analytics ony my Amazon Wishlist. More books on the pile!

Writer said...

LOL. What is analytics? I've heard of this in reference to website stats. :)

Tamayn Irraniah said...

Exactly the same sense. You are reading my list, and finding stuff I'd like. It's on purpose isn't it. You're doing this on purpose, you booktease you! :-)

Writer said...

Sadly, that's the only way I'm teasing anyone lately. ;)