Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nora Ephron 1941-2012

"Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss." ― Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gardening Literature for Green and Non-Green Thumbs

Whether you're the type who likes to get your hands dirty in the garden or you simply wish to dig out some free time to turn the pages of gardening-inspired literature, bookstores are blooming with a host of titles.

In Why Every Man Needs a Tractor, Charles Elliott, former publisher at Knopf, details his gardening labors in Wales. Elliott's essays combine personal experience with interesting tidbits and facts about some of the world's most notable, history-making gardens and gardeners.

The World of Wild Orchids by Christian Ziegler contains dazzling color photographs and a fascinating text accompaniment exploring the mysterious aura of these exotic beauties.
Lane Smith's illustrated children's book Grandpa Green, while aimed at ages 4-8, translates across generations. A young boy shares a poignant, heart-tugging narrative that bears witness to his forgetful grandfather's love for topiary gardening.

Family secrets take center stage in the novel The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair. In this tale, told via an extended flashback, an off-limits, walled garden in India might hold the key to one woman's search to reclaim her past and reinvent her future.

A foster mother inspires a troubled girl by planting seeds, both literal and figurative, in The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut novel resonates with the way flowers can become symbols that inspire us to believe in the power of tomorrow. 

In the mood for a great whodunnit? Dig into the quirky, original gardening mystery series by Rosemary Harris (Pushing Up Daisies, The Big Dirt Nap, Dead-Head, Slugfest). Her lovable protagonist, Paula Holliday, gives up a high-powered job in New York City and sets off to Connecticut to finally cultivate her life-long passion for professional gardening. In each installment, Holliday not only winds up pulling weeds but also rooting out killers.

Note: This article is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly longer form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this piece as published on Shelf Awareness for Readers (5/8/12), link HERE

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The First Warm Evening of the Year

Forty-something Geoffrey Tremont thought he was settled in his life in New York City - he has many friends, a successful career doing voice-over spots and a relationship with a woman who offers him companionship. But when Tremont is notified that he has been named the executor of a will for an old college friend, Laura Wells, whom he hasn't seen in twenty years, and he sets off to reconcile her estate in Shady Grove, a small town in upstate New York in the Berkshire Mountains, his life is suddenly upended. He falls, love at first sight, for Marian Ballantine, a dear friend of the departed, a woman living in a perpetual state of mourning since her husband's death and stuck in a repressed relationship of her own.

The inherent risks--and joys--of love and loving are the cornerstones of The First Warm Evening of the Year by Jamie M. Saul (Light of Day).  This is a psychologically astute and emotionally evocative novel about death (literal and figurative), the nature of grief, passion, self-knowledge and the complexities of love. Laura's passing assembles a cast of deeply drawn supporting characters forced to examine their own intimate associations - or lack thereof. Sometimes people settle and use substitutes for cultivating more substantial relationships in their lives. But as one character remarks when considering the risks of love despite the consequences of heartbreak, "What's the point of having a heart, if you're not going to use it?" Those in this absorbing, beautifully written novel ultimately discover that sometimes love is not a choice, but rather a matter of having no choice. 

William Morrow, $24.99, Hardcover, 9780061449727, 304 pp
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Please note:  This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (4/27/12), click HERE.