Saturday, July 31, 2010

Weekend Cooking - Trolling for Maine Goodies

Beth Fish Reads sponsors this weekly meme where we foodies can chat about cookbooks, cooking gadgets, recipes, or anything else gustatory. Be sure to stop over there to find other terrific weekend cooking posts.

We've been blessed this week with spectacular weather, and have another week forecast.  Our blueberry crop here in Maine is ahead of schedule and we are all over dosing on gorgeous vine-ripened tomatoes, the smell of rosa rugosas, and lots of fresh seafood.  And the Lobster Festival is coming this week.
Last weekend, we took our visitors to the Owls Head General Store where they featured "The Best Hamburger in Maine" -- a designation awarded by the Food Network and I'm not going to argue with them.  It's called the 7 Napkin Hamburger.  I think we managed to keep it at 10!

That's also where we discovered the Blueberry Pop.  It's absolutely delish!

So come on up---the lobster's great, but we have other stuff too.  Now to kick back with a good book to enjoy the seabreeze.

The Contest Mother Lode

If you are a regular follower of any book blog, you are aware that many of us periodically are fortunate enough to receive copies from publishers or authors that we can give away to our readers.  Those contests generate hype for the author, and keep those of us who love to read in the loop about new books or new releases of past favorites.

Keeping up with all those contests is often time-consuming however, and finding, posting, and conducting contests cuts into reading time. There is one site however, that I must remind you about, Susan of West of Mars - Win a Book! is awesome.  To quote her page:

Win a Book is a unique sort of blog, in that we’re traffic cops more than anything else. We post links to author interviews and guest blog appearances, to book giveaways, and to other events that will connect books and readers. Author events, in which books can be autographed and/or purchased, for example.
What Win a Book does not do: Post book reviews. Host authors for guest blogs or interviews. Hold book giveaways.

If you're looking for more giveaways, or interviews or a page to find out what's happening in the book blog world, West of Mars is THE place to start.  Susan doesn't have everything, but each of those links on her page will have links to other pages.....they breed better than rabbits - and they're much less messy!!!

So spend some time this weekend entering contests and winning some great new books. Thanks Susan for a great blog, and for all your help posting our giveaways.

Review: Red Hook Road

Author: Ayelet Waldman
Format: Hardcover 352 pgs
Characters: Two families: The Copakens and the Tetherlys
Subject: socio-economic class structure; dealing with grief
Setting: small town coastal Maine
Genre: fiction
Source: ARC from the publisher Doubleday Books
Challenge: ARCs completed

I live in a small town in coastal Maine so I had high expectations of this book and its setting. On the whole, it did not disappoint. Ayelet Waldman has done her homework and presents us with a deeper than surface glimpse into the relationships, economic reality and culture of such a life.

The story begins rather slowly.  In fact, the only part of the story I found tedious was the beginning.  Essentially it boils down to a wedding - the bridal party stays behind to have pictures taken.  The wedding guests go off to the Grange Hall for the reception.  But the bride and groom never get to the reception because the limo is involved in a fatal accident. This isn't a spoiler - it's the beginning of the story.

The story isn't about the bride and groom at all, but rather the story of their families and how this wedding, this romance, and these deaths impact the families--both inside each family, and towards the other family.  It is a story of relationships and people. In addition to the native vs. "from away" conflict, there are religious issues (the bride's family is Jewish), there are issues of aging (the bride's grandfather- a world class violinist - is now suffering from Parkinson's), there is marital discord - the bride's parents have drifted apart due to the mother's overbearing need to control everyone and everything and the father's lack of backbone and refusal to stand up to her.

There are issues of class- the groom's mother cleans house for the bride's family, but doesn't feel the bride's family is deserving of being seen as 'from here' since they live in New York.  There are grieving siblings who are left to fend for themselves emotionally, and who are struggling to find their own lives while trying to live up to their brother's and sister's dreams.

The best part of the story surrounds the relationship that develops between Samantha (the flower girl) , a nine year old Cambodian orphan who was adopted by the groom's aunt, and Mr. Kimmelbrod, the grandfather, who discovers Samantha's incredible musical talent and takes her under his wing to mentor and encourage her.

Over four summers, we watch as a marriage falls apart, a romance blooms, a musical career blossoms, and the mothers-in-law come to a grudging respect for each others' differences.  The ending was almost a made-in-hollywood scene designed to tie up the loose ends and make it come out 'happily ever after.'  It could have been more realistic, leaving the characters with some room to grow instead of just being able to walk away from problems.  Still in all, it was a great read, and a well done look at generational, class, and religious differences that can fester in a small town atmosphere.

My thanks to Doubleday for making the review copy available.

Friday, July 30, 2010

And the Winners are...................

I'm almost finished the first one in this series, and I'm telling you it's a page turner.  I'm especially pleased with the fact that Christopher Reich can tell a story that involves several different groups and many people, but you know who everyone is, and have no trouble following all these disparate strings.  Rules of Betrayal is the follow-up to Rules of Deception, and two lucky people are in for the thrill of the summer.  These books are heart pounding, 'take a deep breath' good.  Scary, but only in that you can truly imagine some of these scenarios happening, and hope that our government has its act together.

They prove you never know who to trust.

OK so enough already, WHO ARE THE WINNERS?

Jholden (a repeat winner, proving it pays to stop by and enter daily)

I'll be sending out the emails this afternoon, and the winners have until 6:PM Monday August 1st to let me their mailing address.  Congratulations.

Thanks again to Doubleday for providing the copies for this contest.

Review: Year of Wonders

Author:Geraldine Brooks
Format: audio 10 hrs; and hardback 336 pgs
Subject: The Bubonic Plague
Setting: English village of Eyam England, 1665-66
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Public library
Challenge: Brit Lit

I've had this one on my TBR list for quite a while, so I was thrilled when our Seniors Book Club chose it for the fiction selection for August.  We'll meet next Monday to discuss it and I have a feeling it will be a hit.  Brooks tells the story of how one village, under the leadership and inspiration of its Vicar Montpellion and his wife Elinor, chose to isolate themselves and seal off the village for an entire year to prevent the plague from spreading.  The story is told from the voice of Anna Frith who emerges as the central character.  A young woman, widowed with two children, barely in her twenties, she is employed by the Vicar's wife to help in the rectory.  They send a boarder to her, a young tailor who brings a bolt of cloth with him, and who subsequently develops the plague.  Ultimately, the belief is that the cloth contained the seeds of the plague.  As the tailor dies, he begs Anna to "burn it, burn it all."

Once the people of the village decide to isolate themselves, the vicar helps them develop an infrastructure to meet their needs, giving them a way to maintain contact with the outside world without physical interaction with humans.  As more and more people fall ill and die, Anna and Elinor become more adept at nursing, the villagers either come to rely on their religious faith, or fall away in despair.  Superstition abounds, as does suspicion of anyone gifted in the the healing arts.  Not only do we learn about plague, and about human kindness and meaness, we also are painted a picture of early  lead-mining techniques: the dangers, laws, and results of the perilous endeavor which was the backbone of the economy in the village.  While Anna raised sheep and grew a few crops, as a widow, she had no way of mining her late husband's claim, which fell to others to take over when he was killed in a cave-in. 

This is a powerful book, written with great attention to detail and showing much evidence of research and familiarity with the setting and the science.  The characters are compelling. There are extreme acts of bravery and love, and equally extreme acts of savage cruelty and selfishness.  Brooks has us believing them all.  In the end, dire secrets are revealed, and lives are forever altered. The ending is stunning - I had to read it twice to catch it because I almost couldn't believe what I thought I read. Year of Wonders should be a definite addition to your TBR pile if you like history, good characters, and a little health science too.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wishlist Wednesday - July 28th

My weekly wrap-around to help me highlight great books I've heard about on other blogs, or newsletters, or from my fellow librarians or readers on LT. This will help me keep track of books I see that I want to read, and give me some clue in the future about why I said I wanted to read them!  This week I'm drooling over:

 The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell

Gwen at Literary License gives a great review of this one. Set in Japan, the blurbs I've been reading have it sounding similar to SHOGUN, a book I loved. I'm always interested in learning about the beautiful country where we lived for almost 5 years.


How to Be an American Housewife
by Margaret Dilloway
Another book focusing on Japanese traditions, this one was highlighted by, among others,  Alyce of At Home with Books.

The addition of a story about relationships gives this one an added reason to hunt it down for future reading.

Besides....................the cover is gorgeous!


The Good Pyschologist
by Noam Shpancer

I saw this one on Shelf Awareness earlier this week, and it looks like a stunner.
From the sale page: "Noam Shpancer portrays the oft-hidden world of psychotherapy with unparalleled authenticity, compassion, and wit.  More important, his literary gifts are profound.  Beautiful language, an evocative sense of place, and an acute understanding of the human condition have combined to produce a deeply moving, compelling novel.  The Good Psychologist is an astonishing debut."--Jonathan Kellerman
I always enjoy novels which feature good strong characters.
Disappearing Spoon
by Sam Kean
And Other True Tales of Madness, Love,
and the History of the World from
the Periodic Table of the Elements
I first saw this on Shelf Awareness, and then noticed there's a giveaway on Bingo's site going right now. I'm entering, because the math major in me, and the frustrated chem major in my husband both want to read this one.   The publisher says:
The Periodic Table is one of man's crowning scientific achievements. But it's also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The infectious tales and astounding details in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON follow carbon, neon, silicon, and gold as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, poison, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.
 This would also help me in my lifetime Dewey Decimal Challenge, i.e., to read one book in each Dewey Decimal category - that's 1000 books and I'm nowhere near!

 So what are you wishing would fall into your lap, or hop on your shelves, this week?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mailbox Monday

It's Mailbox Monday, a fun weekly meme sponsored by Marcia at The Printed Page.  Just as the post office or mailbox is a place to gather to share the news, this gives readers  a chance to share the books that came into their house last week.  Just two this week - but what a great duo!

Secrets of Newberry , by Victor McGlothin,  a contest win from the oosaonlinebookclub.\
For Ivory Bones Arcineaux and Julian Bynote, life in 1950s New Orleans couldn't be sweeter. Friends since they met in an illegal gambling house in Newberry, Louisiana, they have their pick of all the fine women, good food, and hot nights they can handle. They seem to have it made-especially Julian who begins to make a new life for himself after meeting the beautiful, classy Magnolia Garbo at a social. But both men are about to find out that letting the good times roll can be deadly when a simple robbery goes wrong and Julian witnesses Bones murdering a man in cold blood. The victim was a white city councilman with all the right connections-and if the two are discovered, it will mean the end to everything they've built together. With the New Orleans police hot on their trail, Julian must decide whether rolling in the fast lane is worth losing his freedom and his life.

Rules of Betrayal by Christopher Reich -This is my review copy of the 2nd in this great series.  To get your copy be sure to enter the giveaway we're sponsoring.  I just started the first one - Rules of Deception - and it grips you from page 1, and this one is reputed to be even better.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Spotlight series: Greywolf Press

This month, the Spotlight Series is featuring Greywolf Press, a small non-profit focusing on poetry, Native American writings, essays, and short stories: an eclectic mixture of everything elegant in American literature.  I chose a small volume of letters because that is one of my favorite forms of reading.  I find that people often will put emotions and deep feelings into letters that are not as easily shared in oral conversations.  In this case,

The Delicacy and Strength of Lace explores the literary friendship of two writers who were new to me: Leslie Marmon Silko, a Laguna Pueblo Indian and author of Laguna Woman (1974), Ceremony (1977), and Storyteller (1981);  and James Wright, a poet known for his translations of Vallejo, Trakl and Neruda, and whose Collected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. The book is edited by Wright's wife Annie.

They met at a writers conference in 1975, and began a short-lived correspondence in 1978 which started out as Dear Mrs. Silko....signed Sincerely, James Wright, and Dear Mr. Wright....signed sincerely, Leslie Silko.

In January 1980, Jim Wright was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue.  His last letter was  a postcard written with the help of his wife:
Dear Leslie:

I can't write much of a message.  Please write to me.
Love, Jim

We loved seeing you last month.  James is moving to a fine new hospital on Friday.
We miss hearing from you.  How is the roadrunner?
Love, Annie.

The final letter was written in 1980:  Dear Jim, ....signed My love to you always, Leslie.  This was written on March 24, 1980 the day Jim Wright died of cancer.  It arrived after his death.

In between was an incredible correspondence in which two writers shared their hopes, their works in progress, little stories from their pasts, reports of Leslie's rooster, and after rooster's demise, the roadrunner who came to take his place in her heart. There were disclosures of failed marriages, relations with children, the difficulty of getting just the perfect word to convey a feeling or thought in a poem. Early in the correspondence, Leslie sends him a copy of Laguna Woman explaining that she hasn't written much poetry since, because she is currently working on screen adaptions of old Laguna tales and that work is sapping her creative energy.

One of the pieces from Laguna Woman resonated with me.  It's from a poem titled Incantation:

The Simple equation you found
in my notebook
frightened you.
But I could have explained it:
       After all bright colors of sunset and leaf
       are added together
       lovers are subtracted
       children multiplied, divided, taken away.
The remainder is small enough
to stay in this room forever
gray-shadowing restless
trapped on a gray grassy plain.  (pg. 16).

She tells him about her rooster--the story of how she inherited this strutting arrogant fellow, and how he came to become an important part of her life.  He replied that he found the story of the rooster refreshing and her storytelling "abundant."
...I may be sounding "literary" and that would be a pity, because I am trying to find words here for something that is very real for me. I am extremely glad, and in a way, relieved, that you exist.
Her stories of Laguna life, Laguna storytelling had me off to find other books by Leslie Silko.  I can't wait to delve into this small volume of narrations.  She writes of the customs of her people, and compares them to other cultures. He and his wife Annie go off to Europe for the summer months while Hunter College (where he teaches) is on break. They try to maintain the correspondence as the Wrights move from one address to another, and Leslie struggles to get letters to the correct spot ahead of their arrivals.

It was compelling to be reminded of a world before emails and blackberries, and even computers.  These letters were either hand or type written, on aerogram paper and sent through the postal systems of many countries.  They reflect a life of less urgency, a life of sweet anticipation waiting for the post to arrive.

As Leslie and James became more comfortable with each other's thoughts and dreams, they shared even deeper thoughts.  They were able to offer encouragement and literary criticism not only as literary peers but as friends.  She tells of rooster's ending, and he writes of the vagaries of European life. They critique each other's writings.

While in Belgium, he discovers a lace making shop.
 Sometimes I wonder about things like lace, things that human beings make with their own hands, things that aren't much help as shelter from the elements or against war and other kinds of brutality.  Lace was obviously no help to the Belgians during two horrifying invasions in this century.  Nevertheless, the art continues to survive, the craftsmen weaving away with the finest precision over their woofs and spools.(pg.45)
 He encloses a sample of the lace with the note "Happy birthday from Annie and me."

The letters continue with discussions of Spinoza, stories of the Laguna view of death- how people don't really leave, they stay with us even after physical death.  I made me wonder if she had some presentiment of what was to come.

They discuss how long it takes to really write a good poem--how it must gestate.  In June 1979, he writes;

 A poem is a very odd duck.  It goes through changes --in form and color--when you leave it alone patiently, just as surely as a plant does, or an animal, or any other creature.....Well, this new work of mine will change in time.  Some of it is naturally ripening already.  Before long I will send you three new prose pieces, and see what you think. (pg.58)
Their plans to meet in Arizona during a winter visit from the Wrights were abruptly changed due to Wright's illness.  The letters continued, and Leslie was able to visit with him for a short time in February.  By then he was hospitalized and unable to speak.  He communicated by writing on a yellow legal pad.  While sad, it seemed so appropriate for these two friends whose communication had been almost entirely by writing.

Annie Wright did a splendid job of editing these missives.  She gives us a one page introduction explaining the orgin of the friendship; she offers us a beautiful poem "The Lace" by Rainer Maria Rilke to set the tone, and then gives us a few closing paragraphs to bring closure. In between, she allows the letters to speak for themselves.

I am so grateful that Graywolf Press has chosen to re-issue this gem. It is a short (only 106 pages) volume that has more depth and beauty than many 400-600 page works I've endured these past few years.  I originally got my copy to review from the library at the University of Maine, Farmington, but I have ordered my own to have, to hold, and to linger over and over.

You can read some excerpts here.

Finally, a personal aside:  My husband spent almost 30 years in the US Navy, and much of the first 25 years of our marriage was spent writing letters.  We could not afford overseas phone calls, we didn't have email.  We wrote letters.  I ashamed to say he wrote more prolifically than I.  Those letters though, allowed us to reveal ourselves and our dreams, without the hurry of a face-to-face encounter.  We courted via the mail. Those red and blue striped envelopes full of memories are still, after these many years, to be re-read and savored, laughed and cried over.  I think this is why I really enjoy this form of writing.  Eavesdropping on other people's letters has always been a pleasure.

Many thanks to Aarti, Amy and Chris, the Spotlight Series blog administrators for hosting this event.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weekend Cooking - Guests are Cooking!

Last week I indicated Guests were coming.  This weekend, it's even better because guests are cooking!  Beth Fish Reads sponsors this weekly meme where we foodies can chat about cookbooks, cooking gadgets, recipes, or anything else gustatory. Be sure to stop over there to find other terrific weekend cooking posts.

>We had the potential for a disastrous visit here when my daughter, who drove up from DC arrived Wednesday just an hour ahead of one of the most monstrous thunderstorms we've had in the six years we've lived here. She had just enough time to get to the fish market, buy the lobster and rolls, and get back before the heavens opened.  Over 4" of rain fell in less than two hours, washing out both ends of the road into our house.  We didn't lose power, but did lose the sattelite links to both TV and big deal, lobster rolls, homemade cole slaw,blueberry iced tea and some homemade brown sugar cookies she brought with her were all we needed before we all settled down with the cats and read our good books.

Luckily, the road commissioner got one end of the road opened in time for the arrival of  our dear friend from Texas who flew into Manchester NH and drove up....bad news is his bag forgot to change planes, so it went to Buffalo NY. Never fear. Daughter made a few of her famous gimlets, we had a delicious pulled pork that had been 'smoking' in the slo cooker for over 12 hours, along with a fresh from the garden lettuce and tomato salad, and again all was well with the world.

This morning, I awoke at 6:00AM to the incredible smell of baking cinnamon rolls...homemade, gooey, and scrumptious.  I have told her she may not leave ever.  She and goddad are off to a local distillery to buy more gin (they make a cranberry gin we're all anxious to try), and then we'll grill buffalo steaks out on the deck, to enjoy along with fresh green beans, insulata caprese (again from our garden) and potato salad.

Now to tie this whole thing in with books, we've been leafing through daughter's copy of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, from the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and beyond.  A fun fun fun book that son-in-law gave her for Christmas last year.  It has the recipes and stories behind 100 rediscovered drinks. It begins with a history of the drink - who knew cocktails were originally served in the morning?- gives some thoughts about various 'bumps' on the road to acceptance and usage such as the temperance movement, prohibition, war rationing, and then the general evolution of attitudes about alcoholic drinks in general, and those risque mixed drinks in particular.

I love some of the recipes, but don't think I've found one yet for which I had all the ingredients.  However, I do remember enough of my world travels to be able to say (in keeping with my Tutu moniker) Okole maluna!  Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Latest Batch of Winners

We have winners!!

I'm almost finished Red Hook Road and will post a review sometime next week.  I'm having a hard time tearing myself from reading it to do these contest posts - it's that good.  

I haven't gotten my review copy of Impostor's Daughter yet, but I can't wait!

In the meantime, the entries are in and has chosen some new followers, a devoted long-time follower (but first time winner) and a repeat winner.  So it appears the boast is true - no favoritism from Random.

Red Hook Road will go to

Emails have gone out  and winners have already replied, so those copies should be in the mail this week.
Copies of Impostor's Daughter go to
Etirv (she's a repeat winner - pays to keep coming back!)
Emails have gone to these three and they have until Monday July 26th to get to me with an address, or we'll have Random draw another winner.
Thanks so much to all of  you who visited and entered.  Be sure to come back often, there are more contests running.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Author: Helen Simonson
Format: audio book 13 hours, 368 page equivalent
Characters: Major Ernest Pettigrew, Mrs. Jasmina Ali
Subject: Love, loneliness, cultural and class differences
Setting: a small village in coastal southern England
Genre: Fiction
Source: public library audio download
Challenge: Brit Lit

Here's one that could have been trite, chick-brit-lit, but instead is an endearing story of two people and their families. Two people, from two different cultures, who manage to overcome their differences and find understanding, love and a future together. When we meet Major Ernest Pettigrew, British Army retired, he is stiff, rule abiding, and lonely. Widowed for several years, he has just lost his only brother, his son (a total jerk) is 'sort of engaged' to an AMERICAN (Horrors!), and his brother's widow is refusing to give him the gun his father said was to be his when his brother died. This was a set given his father by the Maharajah in India, and father wanted the guns to remain in the family and kept as a set.  Brother seems to have forgotten to mention the gun in his will.

At the same time we meet Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the storekeeper  in the small town (horrors again - the woman is in trade!) Mrs. Ali happens to be a widow of Pakistani ethnicity, although she was born in England and has never been out of the country. Her nephew, a strict Muslim, has recently arrived to help his auntie, and to guide her back to true religion.  The Major and Mrs. Ali strike up an unlikely friendship, meeting to discuss books, and drink tea together.

The other characters and ancillary goings on in the town contribute to a host of situations in which the Major and Mrs. Ali find themselves working together, and then being torn  apart. There are many obstacles (mostly other people's problems) that make their life difficult, and the book an interesting and compelling read,  but this is primarily a story with a happy ending that is not syrupy but rather adult, human, and inspiring. A definite sleeper. It would make a great movie.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another Audio Book Giveaway- The Island by Elin Hilderbrand

Another Great Giveaway for summer reading!
The Island
3 audio copies available 
by Elin Hilderbrand

Earlier, we had a contest for  Elin Hilderbrand's Castaways. After the excitement of that one, I'm thrilled to be able to giveaway (and review) another by this author set in New England off the coast of Nantucket, and just in time for the end of a glorious summer. This time, courtesy of Ana at Hachette Audio, we have three copies of THE ISLAND, read by Denise Hicks. Here's what the Hachette Book Group page says about this one:
From New York Times bestseller Elin Hilderbrand, a new novel set on Tuckernuck, a tiny island off the coast of Nantucket.  Four women-a mother, her sister, two grown daughters-head to Tuckernuck for a retreat, hoping to escape their troubles. Instead, they find only drama, secrets, and life-changing revelations.
"This story of one woman's midlife crisis is an emotional and heartfelt journey. It's a captivating tale of heartache, happiness, confusion and love."-Romantic Times BOOK club magazine.
"A gem of a summer read with a glamorous location, elite lifestyle, and Hilderbrand's appealing take on the constant stress that fills the lives of women everywhere."-Booklist
"Claire's walk on the dark side is pure voyeuristic fun...A perfect summer cocktail of sex, sun and scandal."-Kirkus Reviews
"Characters are as complex and fragile as glassblowing artist Claire's creations in Hilderbrand's latest Nantucket tale....this mom-lit novel stand(s) out from the pack."-Library Journal
 I enjoyed The Castaways so much I can't wait to 'ear-read' this one.  I really love audio books and this one promises to be really fun.
So here are the rules for the giveaway: 
  1. For one entry, leave a comment telling me something that interests you about this one. Include your email address (no email no win).
  2. For an extra entry, leave a separate comment telling me you're a follower (or become one and let me know).
  3. For another entry, make a separate entry telling me you blogged about the giveaway, (sidebars are fine) and LEAVE ME THE LINK to the posting.
  4. Since I don't twitter, tweet, or FB, you can get extra entries by visiting my blog every day, and leaving a comment about the current post.  Just leave your comment on the contest post and tell me something about that day's post. Say "daily entry and the date and blah blah blah about the daily post" YOU CAN DO THIS UP TO 10 times.
  5. US and Canadian addresses only, no PO Boxes
  6. Deadline is August 9th-noon EDT.


Wishlist Wednesday

A weekly wrap-up to help me highlight great books I've heard about on other blogs, or newsletters, or from my fellow librarians or readers on LT. This will help me keep track of books I see that I want to read, and give me some clue in the future about why I said I wanted to read them!

 The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace

From Shelf Talker:  An exquisite gem of a novel that blends fairytale and real-world emotion in the story of a blind contessa, her lover and her writing machine.  Reviews are giving many many stars for the exquisite writing. The cover itself is so poignant, portraying a world the Contessa loses when her sight gradually fades away.


When the Emperor Was Divine
By Julie Otsuka

We lived in Japan for several years and I'll never learn enough about that fascinating culture.  But this one is about the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the internment camps in which they were forced to live.  A recommendation from several  fellow LTers.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
by Tom Franklin

Not due for release until October by William Morrow publishers, this one caught my eye because of the title--I thought it was a typo at first, then realized it refers to how children in the south are taught to spell Mississippi where the suspense thriller/novel is set!  M - I - crooked letter- crooked letter......etc etc.

 The Doctor and the Diva
by Adrienne McDonnell

This one leapt off the pages of my daily Shelf Awareness newsletter!  How could one not want to read historical fiction about a Harvard educated doctor and his opera singer patient whom he is treating for infertility?  From the blurb on the author's web page it sound like this could be quite a love story... or is it an obsession?

Did you see any new books (new releases and/or new to you) to tempt you this week?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mini Reviews: two fun mysteries

Last week while I was plugging away at a rather ponderous non-fiction book, I lightened the load by listening to two mysteries during my daily drive/swim/drive (2 hrs each day).  One, the Julia Spencer-Fleming (hereafter referred to as JSF) had me so glued to my MP3, that I stayed up very late one night to finish it.

Last Lessons of Summer
Author: Margaret Maron
Format: audio - 9 1/2 hrs, 386 page equivalent
Subject: delving into family secrets
Agatha Award nomination 2003
Setting: New York, and North Carolina
Genre: crime fiction - amateur sleuth
Source: Public library

I really enjoy Maron's Judge Deborah Knott series, but this one is a stand-alone about a young woman Amy who inherits a family business - The Pink and Blue publishing company - and a house from her grandmother.  The house is in North Carolina and since she has such fond memories of spending time there with her grandmother, she returns to NC to go through her grandmother's treasures before selling the house.  At the same time, she is looking for clues to help her understand why her mother killed herself when Amy was only 3 years old.  The mysteries she unearths, the assorted relatives whose apple carts she upsets, and the suspense created by all this make for a very satisfying read.
All Mortal Flesh
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Format: audio - 13+ hrs, 400 page equivalent
Subject: crime, mistaken identify
Setting: upstate New York
Genre: crime fiction - amateur and professional sleuth team
Source: Public library

One of my all time favorite crime series.  Not as cozy as a ladies tea-cup cozy, but not quite as bloody and gory as many being written today, these have the added feature of an illicit romantic relationship that continues to escalate in intensity if not in fruition. Russ Van Alstyne, the town's married police chief, and Clare Fergusson, the town's episcopal priest take their struggle to avoid having a full-blown affair to new heights.  It's really difficult to write a review of this one without revealing the plot, but if you are a follower of the series, you will not want to miss this one!  JSF has managed to give us a portrait of two very moral and human people trying to help the people of their town, trying to help each other, while maintaining their sense of morality.  There is a new character- Deacon Elizabeth DeGroot- who is sent by the bishop to help Clare in parish work (or is she a spy from the bishop?), there is an incredible plot twist in the middle, and a breath-taking, heart-stopping ending.  

I've already checked out the next one in the series from our library, and plan to read it Sunday after our company leaves ---- I may not be able to go to bed until I've finished it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: Letter to My Daughter

Author:  George Bishop
Format: audio - 4 hrs, 160 page equivalent
Subject: teenagers, parenting, Catholic schools
Setting: Baton Rouge Louisiana
Genre: fiction - epistolary in form
Source: public library download

There were several surprises for me when I started reading this book.  For some reason, I thought this was going to be a book about letters from a father serving in Vietnam to his daughter. But, it turns out the entire book is one long letter written by a MOTHER to her 15 year old daughter who has just run-away.  Mom wants her daughter to know that she understands how it feels to be 15 and misunderstood by the world.

The mother gives us what is really her story of growing up, of living in a Catholic girls boarding school where she was sent by her parents to avoid having to go to an integrated school, and to get her away from her boyfriend. How her small acts of rebellion were a constant source of embarrassment to her parents, and a constant thorn in the side of many of her teachers. Having gone to a Catholic girls school myself during that same time period, I was able to relate to the story and particularly to her characterization of some of the nuns.

The boyfriend eventually goes to Vietnam and there are letters from him to Mom, which Mom seems able to recreate verbatim after 30 some years.

It is actually an endearing and poignant story that pulls the reader in and gently sets us down at the end.  A lovely short read.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was seeing how well a man could write from a mother's point of view. Recommended.

Mailbox Monday

It's Mailbox Monday, a fun weekly meme sponsored by Marcia at The Printed Page.  Just as the post office or mailbox is a place to gather to share the news, this gives readers  a chance to share the books that came into their house last week.  This week brought quite an eclectic assortment from four new authors. They should definitely keep me from getting bored.

The War Lovers by Evan Thomas.  This was an audio book I won in a contest held by Gaby at Starting Fresh.  I love audio books, and I'm really looking forward to this one.  I just finished reading James Bradley's The Imperial Cruise and I'm holding off reviewing it, so I can compare the two.  They both cover about the same material but I 'm hoping they offer different perspectives.  Here's the description for this one:

On February 15, 1898, the USS Maine exploded in the Havana Harbor. Although there was no evidence that the Spanish were responsible, yellow newspapers such as William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal whipped Americans into frenzy by claiming that Spain's "secret infernal machine" had destroyed the battleship. Soon after, the blandly handsome and easily influenced President McKinley declared war, sending troops not only to Cuba but also to the Philippines, Spain's sprawling colony on the other side of the world.
As Evan Thomas reveals in his rip-roaring history of those times, the hunger for war had begun years earlier. Depressed by the "closing" of the Western frontier and embracing theories of social Darwinism, a group of warmongers that included a young Teddy Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge agitated loudly and incessantly that the United States exert its influence across the seas. These hawks would transform American foreign policy and, when Teddy ascended to the presidency, commence with a devastating war without reason, concocted within the White House--a bloody conflict that would come at tremendous cost.

Thrillingly written and brilliantly researched, THE WAR LOVERS is the story of six men at the center of a transforming event in U.S. history: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, McKinley, William James, and Thomas Reed, and confirms once more than Evan Thomas is a popular historian of the first rank.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives

by Lola Shoneyin. My win from June's Early Review Program at
From the back cover.....
Meet Baba Segi . . .
A plump, vain, and prosperous middle-aged man of robust appetites, Baba Segi is the patriarch of a large household that includes a quartet of wives and seven children. But his desire to possess more just might be his undoing.
And his wives . . .
  - Iya Segi—the bride of Baba Segi's youth, a powerful, vindictive woman who will stop at nothing to protect her favored position as ruler of her husband's home.
  - Iya Tope—Baba Segi's second wife, a shy, timid woman whose decency and lust for life are overshadowed by fear.
 - Iya Femi—the third wife, a scheming woman with crimson lips and expensive tastes who is determined to attain all that she desires, no matter what the cost.
  - Bolanle—Babi Segi's fourth and youngest wife, an educated woman wise to life's misfortunes who inspires jealousy in her fellow wives . . . and who harbors a secret that will expose shocking truths about them all.
I love to read books that describe different cultures and lifestyles so I'm really looking forward to this one set in Nigeria.
All Over the Map
by Laura Fraser. This was an ARC sent by the publisher Harmony Books as part of their "Read It Forward" program.  From the back cover:
The bestselling author of An Italian Affair buys us the plane tickets and takes us in search of adventure and romance as she wonders whether it's possible, in midlife, to have it all.

From Amazon:   Travel writer Fraser enchanted readers with her tale of her post divorce romance with a sophisticated French professor in An Italian Affair (2001). She continues the story here, beginning with the end of the affair after the professor finds someone he wants to settle down with. Fraser wants the same thing, but she still finds herself most drawn to free-spirited men looking for flings, not relationships. An assault in Samoa leaves her shaken—and afraid to travel alone. Fraser turns her focus inward, trying to find peace through meditation and to temper her impulsiveness. Her forty-fifth birthday brings the end of a relationship and the beginning of something new when Fraser travels to the Mexican city of San Miguel de Allende and finds herself contemplating buying a house. The title is an apt description of both Fraser’s travels—which include jaunts to Italy, Provence, and Rwanda described in evocative, lush prose—and her frame of mind over the course of the eight years that her winning coming-of-middle-age memoir spans. 
We may have seen other stories about middle aged women starting over, but I'm betting this one will have a better than average share of emotions, adventures, and interesting scenes.


Stay a Little Longer by Dorothy Garlock.
In Stay a Little Longer, Dorothy Garlock, “the premier writer of Americana romance” (Booklist), takes us back to the country’s heartland at the end of World War I, and the town of Carlson, Minnesota, where many young men were lost. Yet the person Rachel Watkins mourns most is her sister who died giving birth not long after learning her new husband, a soldier, was dead. Rachel has raised her niece Charlotte, now 8 years old, and ekes out a meager living running her family’s boarding house.

But more hardship stands on her threshold. Charlotte’s father, Mason Turner, came from a powerful family at the helm of which sits his odious brother, who covets Rachel’s property for business reasons, and is not above using unscrupulous means to get it.

What distracts Rachel from the encroaching battle is the dangerously ill stranger Charlotte happens upon in the woods. Was he hiding? Unkempt in appearance, his face nearly obscured by a heavy beard, the man looks oddly familiar. But as Rachel nurses the mysterious loner back to health, she recognizes that they both share an implacable will to survive…and something else neither can deny. What will Rachel risk to attain a dream she never imagined possible?
 The only problem with a pile of books this interesting is trying to decide where to put them in the queue.  I want to read them all right away.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Salon -More Guest prep

Yesterday I mentioned that we have fun company arriving later this week. Now I'm really excited because my gorgeous daughter - she of gimlet making fame - called to say she really needed a few days to chill and could she come join us. She even allowed as how she wouldn't mind sleeping on the sofa bed. Now there's a guest to love! She's also an awesome baker, so together, we'll be able to crank out some goodies, and settle back and have a great visit. The fact that she can read a book at the speed of lightening, and has really eclectic reading tastes, makes her all the more interesting to have around. Her geeky tech skills will hopefully go unneeded.  Best of all, she and her godfather really enjoy each other's company (she once spent three weeks visting with them in Naples Italy when she was a teenager) and we should all have a special visit.

So, I'm spiffing up the rest of the house, mentally making menus, and watching the Sox hand another game to TEXAS. SIGH.....................

It's just too hot to do just about anything. Thank goodness we were smart enough to install ceiling fans in every room when we built this house 6 years ago. I think it's time for an iced tea break (blueberry of course) and a few minutes of reading..

Enjoy your summer Sunday.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Weekend Cooking - Guests are Coming!

My culinary endeavors this weekend are mental.  Next week (not until Thursday), one of our bestest friends in the world is coming to visit from Texas. He's an old navy buddy, godfather to our daughter, and a good ole farm boy if there ever was one.  Of course, he doesn't eat things from the ocean, and of course, we live in seafood heaven.  Now we eat meat, and potatoes, and corn, but I'm having to juggle my usual 'guest' menu to avoid seafood thingies...

So as I'm frantically collecting dust bunnies and putting clean sheets on the guest bed, and cleaning the guest bathroom, etc etc, etc, I'm listening to an audio book (the delightful Major Pettigrew's Last Stand) and stopping frequently to jot notes on a notepad in my pocket. 

So far the shopping list for food includes

Buffalo steaks
Gimlet makings (note to self--call daughter and get Uncle K's recipe for gimlets)
Cream (for homemade ice cream - flavor depends on what fruit is available at the Farm Market this week)
etc, etc, etc....

And Saturday, the library is having its annual Flea Market, including a Bake and Book sale.  Of course I promised to bake goodies for that.  Wouldn't you know that this week promises to be one of the hottest on record?  Hmmmm.....looks like lots of early, early morning baking since our sea breeze seems to have gone to Nova Scotia, and we don't have AC. 

Tonight, I'll try to plan out some menus (over at Caite's A Lovely Shore Breeze, her Weekend Cooking recipe for corn fritters looks like a winner), decide what cookies, brownies or other quickies to bake, double check the larder, and settle back to watch the Sox while I sample the local ice cream-do I stay with my favorite Ginger, or venture into something different like Pistachio?

What's cooking at your house this weekend?  If you're as warm as we are, I sure hope whatever it is, it's cooking outdoors.  For more exciting food thoughts check out others at  Beth Fish Reads who sponsors this weekly meme where we foodies can chat about cookbooks, cooking gadgets, recipes, or anything else gustatory.

Friday, July 16, 2010

More Winners!!! - The Case of the Missing Servant

Winners!!!! has done it again.  This time the winners are loyal followers who returned several times to post daily entries, and their persistance paid off. 

The Case of the Missing Servant will go to

Holden J
Emails will go out within the hour to both of these lucky ones and they will have until 11:00 pm Tuesday July 20th to get me their mailing info.  If I don't hear by then, I'll have good old Random pick out another winner.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and do come back for more can always win again, or win for the first time.  Random truly is just that.

Great Giveaway: Rules of Betrayal by Christopher Reich

Doubleday Knopf just released this one earlier this week, and thanks to them we have two copies to giveaway. I'm thinking this is going to be one of the hottest thrillers of the season, based on all the buzz on Christopher Reich's website.

Here's the publisher's description:

The most riveting novel yet in Christopher Reich’s New York Times bestselling series—featuring Dr. Jonathan Ransom and his undercover-agent wife Emma, a dangerous woman with a mysterious past who has gone rogue in the high-stakes, serpentine world of international spies.
In 1980, a secret American B-52 crashes high in a remote mountain range on the Pakistan–Afghanistan border. Nearly thirty years later, and spanning locales from those peaks to New York City, a terrible truth will be revealed.
Jonathan Ransom returns as the resourceful doctor thrown into a shadowy world of double and triple agents where absolutely no one can be trusted. To stay alive, Ransom must unravel the mystery surrounding his wife—an enigmatic and lethal spy who plays by her own rules—and discover where her loyalties truly lie.
Rules of Betrayal is a masterfully plotted novel that cements Christopher Reich’s reputation as one of the most admired espionage thriller writers today.

I just got the first one in the series, Rules of Deception, and hope to get that one done by the time this review copy arrives.

So here are the rules for the giveaway: 
  1. For one entry, leave a comment telling me whether you've read any of Reich's previous books. Include your email address (no email no win).
  2. Bonus entry- go to Christopher Reich's website and then leave me a separate comment telling me something interesting you read there.
  3. For an extra entry, leave a separate comment telling me you're a follower (or become one and let me know).
  4. For another entry,  make a separate entry telling me you blogged about the giveaway, (sidebars are fine) and LEAVE ME THE LINK to the posting (if I don't get a link, the entry doesn't count).
  5. Since I don't twitter, tweet, or FB, you can get extra entries by visiting my blog every day, and leaving a comment about the current post. Just leave your comment on the contest post and tell me something about that day's post. Say "daily entry and the date and blah blah blah about the daily post." If I didn't post that day, then say "no post yet today." YOU CAN DO THIS UP TO 10 times.   Altogether you could have up to 13 entries.
  6. US addresses only, no PO Boxes.
  7. Deadline is July 29th -noon EDT.
Thanks again to Judy at Doubleday for making this one available.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Winners - Lemon Cake !


Using to pick winners always tickles me.  I have a degree in math, and studied the theory of random numbers,  but I never could really understand that theory (maybe that's why I became a librarian!!) and  I was a bit taken aback to see that the final two entries in the contest --- the just squeak in under the wire entries -- were the winners, and they were daily entries to boot. So,...see....., it really pays off to come and comment again and again.    

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake will be wending its way to

Emails will go out within the hour to both of these lucky ones and they will have until 11:00 pm Saturday July 17th to get me their mailing info.  If I don't hear by then, I'll have good old Random pick out another winner.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and do come back for more can always win again, or win for the first time.  Random truly is just that.

And if you did miss out here, has a give going for more copies of his one - deadline August 7th.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mailbox Monday

It's Mailbox Monday, a fun weekly meme sponsored by Marcia at The Printed Page.  Just as the post office or mailbox is a place to gather to share the news, this gives readers  a chance to share the books that came into their house last week.  This week I had several goodies arrive at the Post Office.

The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society by Christine Coleman. 
This one even had to go through customs.  Several reading buddies on my LT thread were discussing this one, and the only way I could get my hands on it was to order it from the UK.  It arrived within a week (and cost me only $6.67 including postage!).

The back cover proclaims:
After her escape from an old people's home where her son, Jack and his new partner have placed her, (75 yr old) Agnes (Borrowdale)'s quest to find her grandchildren is complicated by unexpected encounters.  These new friends include Joe: the helpful lorry driver; Molly, the garrulous hotel-owner; Gazza the student; and Felix, the retired barrister's clerk, whom Agnes pulls back from attempted suicide.  Hoping to rekindle Felix's desire to live, she invents the Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society, but soon fears that this falsehood, having acquired a momentum of its own, will end in tragedy.

Now who isn't ready to move this one to the top of the TBR pile?
Little Bee by Chris Cleave.
A contest win from WiseOwl Book Review blog, this one promises to be a deep reading experience.  From the Amazon blurb:

The publishers of Chris Cleave's new novel "don't want to spoil" the story by revealing too much about it, and there's good reason not to tell too much about the plot's pivot point. All you should know going in to Little Bee is that what happens on the beach is brutal, and that it braids the fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple--journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday--who should have stayed behind their resort's walls. The tide of that event carries Little Bee back to their world, which she claims she couldn't explain to the girls from her village because they'd have no context for its abundance and calm. But she shows us the infinite rifts in a globalized world, where any distance can be crossed in a day--with the right papers--and "no one likes each other, but everyone likes U2." Where you have to give up the safety you'd assumed as your birthright if you decide to save the girl gazing at you through razor wire, left to the wolves of a failing state.
It may be fiction, but I suspect the there's much non-fiction truth to be found.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman.

This was another contest win from  The Tome Traveler's Weblog. The description: 
Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille-the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town-a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when Camille is hit by a truck and killed, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.

In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah's perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie's all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

Laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching, Beth Hoffman's sparkling debut is, as Kristin Hannah says, "packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart." It is a novel that explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship and gives us the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others.
I've been doing a lot of reading set in the South lately, and this one sounds like it will be another delightful and charming read.
The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

 Another contest win from Gwendolyn at A Sea of Books.  The description on this one made hubby grab it:

Soviet Union, 1956. Stalin is dead, and a violent regime is beginning to fracture-leaving behind a society where the police are the criminals, and the criminals are innocent. A secret speech composed by Stalin's successor Khrushchev is distributed to the entire nation. Its message: Stalin was a tyrant. Its promise: The Soviet Union will change.  Facing his own personal turmoil, former state security officer Leo Demidov is also struggling to change. The two young girls he and his wife Raisa adopted have yet to forgive him for his part in the death of their parents. They are not alone. Now that the truth is out, Leo, Raisa, and their family are in grave danger from someone consumed by the dark legacy of Leo's past career. Someone transformed beyond recognition into the perfect model of vengeance.  From the streets of Moscow in the throes of political upheaval, to the Siberian gulags, and to the center of the Hungarian uprising in Budapest, THE SECRET SPEECH is a breathtaking, epic novel that confirms Tom Rob Smith as one of the most exciting new authors writing today.

So ..... what was in your mailbox this week? Did you win any contests?  Don't forget to check my sidebar, and enter while there's still time.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Review: A Bad Day For Pretty

Author: Sophie Littlefield
Format: ARC galley 304 pages
Characters: Stella Hardesty, Sheriff "Goat" Jones
Subject: crime
Setting: non-specific town in the tornado belt
Series:  "Bad Day for...."
Genre: crime fiction
Source: Library Thing Early Review Program
Challenge: ARCs completed

Stella Hardesty makes her living "convincing" abusive males they really don't want to be abusive any more.  Her methodology is best described as extra-legal, and she withholds most of the details from her beau the local sheriff.  This episode of her adventures is the sequel to A Bad Day for Sorry, which I have not read, but I don't think that created any problem in understanding and enjoying this one.

Stella is called by a former client to help prove that her husband is not guilty of a murder he is suspected of.  While she's investigating this, Stella is still recovering from physical wounds suffered in a shooting during her previous adventures, and she is dealing with the sudden reappearance of Goat's ex-wife Brandy.  Or is she an ex-wife?  She's also breaking in a mysteriously adopted dog, training a new partner, and feeling quite jealous at the sudden arrival of a female forensic team member who obviously has her sights set on Goat also.

The plot in this one is somewhat convoluted, but I loved the characters, and I adored Stella's smart-ass take on life.  She is not going to let any man get the better of her, having already killed abusive husband #1.  Nuf said.  I don't want to ruin a solid read.  It's not great crime fiction, but it's more than just chick-lit.  Littlefield has given us a character who has much potential for future adventures.  Think Kinsey Milhone with a chip on her shoulder.

I received this free copy for review from the Library Thing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wednesday Wishlist

Once again, my friends in blog-land and on LibraryThing have been flinging more book reviews out there to whet my already sated appetite. I don't think I'll even be able to read them all, but here are four that hopped right onto my TBR wishlist in the past two weeks.

Queen of the Night - J.A. Jance
I love both of Jance's other series - the J.P Beaumont and Joanna Brady ones, but I've yet to read this new one featuring Diana Ladd.  The ads I've seen for this one to be published this month, make me definitely want to correct that oversight -pronto. Publisher blurb:
In Queen of the Night, New York Times bestselling author J.A. Jance brings back the Walker family—introduced in Hour of the Hunter, terrorized in Kiss of the Bees, and last seen in Day of the Dead. A multilayered thriller, gripping and unforgettable—evocatively set in the breathtaking Arizona desert—Queen of the Night is a chilling tale of murder past and present that connects and devastates three separate families.
Then there's Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard (Pub date Aug 24).  I was so impressed with her previous book  Labor Day, that I can't imagine not loving this one too.  I saw this listed in the Early Review offerings on LibraryThing, and it's one of only two that I put my hat in the ring for.
Description: They were born on the same day, in the same hospital, into families that could hardly have been less alike. Ruth is an artist and a romantic, with a rich and passionate imaginative life. Dana is a scientist and realist whose faith is firmly planted in what she can see or hear or touch. Yet these two very different women share the same struggle to make sense of their place in a world in which neither of them has ever truly felt she belonged.

Told in the alternating voices of Ruth and Dana, The Good Daughters follows these “birthday sisters” as they make their way through the decades, from the 1950s to the present. Master storyteller Joyce Maynard chronicles the unlikely ways the two women’s lives intersect—from childhood and adolescence to first loves, first sex, marriage, and parenthood; from the deaths of parents to divorce, the loss of home, and the loss of a beloved partner—until an unavoidable moment when a long-held secret from the past alters everything.
Then one of my BFs on LT came up with this one.  I love books set in New Orleans and One D.O.A, One on the Way by Mary Robison had me clicking on my library's catalog to put it on reserve like yesterday.

From the Publisher's Weekly review on Amazon:

With a laconic voice and a despairing sense of humor, film location scout Eve Broussard narrates award-winning Robison's (Why Did I Ever) grim yet witty novella about the dissolution of a family and a city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Eve and unstable-but-armed Petal are married to 42-year-old twins, Adam and Saunders, who—not unlike the two black swans forever circling the statue commemorating their sister's suicide—spin their nearly identical lives aimlessly: drinking, fretting over hepatitis C and hording cocaine in their parents' stately New Orleans mansion. This family's Big Easy is a world where lush excess and harsh deprivation work side-by-side to create a malaise sinister in its paralyzing appeal. Told in terse, numbered passages, Robison's narrative is jumpy but effective, interspersed with and informed by startling statistics (More than 50 former NOPD officers are in prison, 2 on death row). Distilled episodes of mistaken identity, marriage trouble and potential infidelity build to a crucial decision for Eve, who may be damned if she does, damned if she doesn't. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Now if you really want some fun, I'm betting that The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World . . . via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes will fill the bill quite nicely.  After seeing this on Shelf Awareness, I looked at the blurb, realized I'd been to many of these places, and ridden some of these conveyances, and knew I had to have this one. How could resist?
Indonesian Ferry Sinks.  Peruvian Bus Plunges Off Cliff.  African Train Attacked by Mobs.  Whenever he picked up the newspaper, Carl Hoffman noticed those short news bulletins, which seemed about as far from the idea of tourism, travel as the pursuit of pleasure, as it was possible to get.  So off he went, spending six months circumnavigating the globe on the world's worst conveyances: the statistically most dangerous airlines, the most crowded and dangerous ferries, the slowest buses, and the most rickety trains.  The Lunatic Express takes us into the heart of the world, to some its most teeming cities and remotest places: from Havana to Bogotá on the perilous Cuban Airways.  Lima to the Amazon on crowded night buses where the road is a washed-out track.  Across Indonesia and Bangladesh by overcrowded ferries that kill 1,000 passengers a year.  On commuter trains in Mumbai so crowded that dozens perish daily, across Afghanistan as the Taliban closes in, and, scariest of all, Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., by Greyhound.

The Lunatic Express is the story of traveling with seatmates and deckmates who have left home without American Express cards on conveyances that don't take Visa, and seldom take you anywhere you'd want to go.   But it's also the story of traveling as it used to be -- a sometimes harrowing trial, of finding adventure in a modern, rapidly urbanizing world and the generosity of poor strangers, from ear cleaners to urban bus drivers to itinerant roughnecks, who make up most of the world's population.  More than just an adventure story, The Lunatic Express is a funny, harrowing and insightful look at the world as it is, a planet full of hundreds of millions of people, mostly poor, on the move and seeking their fortunes.
 Edited July 7 to add link to Sophisticated Dorkiness - her excellent review is another reason to run and get this one.  Anyone for a train ride?