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AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: Anne Lamott’s ‘Small Victories’

News from Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers on modern-day spirituality (and on writing: Her ‘Bird by Bird’ offers some of the best advice I’ve ever read on the art and struggle of writing). Her new collection of essays, “Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace,” does not disappoint, as she continues to search for grace in the struggles of daily life. Lamott, a recovering alcoholic who has long battled the legacy of her parents’ unhappy marriage, is unafraid to look small-minded, petty and mean. But she’s also unafraid to offer up her hurt feelings and her efforts at forgiveness. Take, for example, the journal that her father’s former girlfriend sends her years after his death. Lamott had been the “good daughter,” caring for him as he died of brain … Read entire article »

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AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: ‘Fourth of July Creek’ by Smith Henderson

News from Sarasota Herald-Tribune: The landscape of the wide-open West has formed the setting of many wonderful novels over the years, from John Steinbeck’s work to Russell Banks’ to Cormac McCarthy’s. Now joining those illustrious writers is newcomer Smith Henderson, whose debut novel, “Fourth of July Creek” is as bold and audacious as those of his predecessors. In vivid and evocative language, Henderson introduces us to the community of Tenmile in northwestern Montana, about as far from anywhere as one can get in these United States. Its isolation suits its inhabitants, many of whom have run from other places and problems, only to find, as so often happens, that their troubles have followed them into this beautiful, mountainous place. At the center of the story is Pete Snow, a social worker who toils in … Read entire article »

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AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Fever’ by Megan Abbott

News from Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Baffling. Disturbing. Infuriating. All words to describe what’s happening at Dryden High in Megan Abbott’s taut new novel, “The Fever.” Also words to describe the book itself, perhaps most particularly the listening experience. The book turns on the Nash family, science teacher Tom, shy but good-looking hockey player Eli and 16-year-old Deenie. One day at school, Deenie’s best friend Lise, a formerly plump and awkward child who has blossomed almost overnight into a stunning sex kitten with slender body and large breasts, suffers a seizure in class. Within minutes, video footage is circulating through social media, and the next day another girl succumbs, and then another. Soon the ER is overflowing with girls “spinning like tops” and their panic-stricken parents; the school board’s got a problem on its hands … Read entire article »

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AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: ‘We Are Water’ not what I’d hoped

News from Sarasota Herald-Tribune: I’m a big fan of Wally Lamb’s books, and have been looking forward to “We Are Water” since he and I had a conversation about it (and other things) in front of an audience at USF Sarasota-Manatee more than a year ago. So I was a little surprised that I didn’t much care for the audio form in the early chapters, even though Lamb himself is part of a large team of narrators (each chapter is told in first person by one of the large cast of characters) on the project. I especially did not care for the character of Annie Oh, an outsider artist, wife and mother who after 27 years has left her psychologist husband, Orion, and their three grown children for Viveca, the wealthy Manhattan … Read entire article »

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Book Review | Favorite author doesn’t disappoint with moving audiobook

News from Cecil Whig: Our library patrons love Jeannette Walls’ books, so I thought I would try “The Silver Star” on audiobook. I’m glad I did. This emotional and poignant story is told from the perspective of 12-year-old Jean “Bean” Holladay. It is 1970 in California and Bean and her 15-year-old sister Liz are left home alone when their mother abandons them to launch a career as a singer. When Bean gets home from school and sees a police car waiting outside, the two girls escape to their mother’s hometown across the country in Virginia. In Virginia, they find uneasy refuge at their uncle’s house, a run-down, secret-filled mansion that’s been in the family for generations. As Bean and Liz work to adjust and make a place for themselves, they also start to learn … Read entire article »

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AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: ‘Queen of the Air’ shows the rough life of circus royalty

News from Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Circus aerialist Lillian Leitzel’s biography on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey website gives short shrift to the circumstances of her birth in Breslau in 1892, saying only that her parents “separated when she was very young” and that she was raised by her grandparents. The reality, as it unfolds in Dean Jensen’s riveting “Queen of the Air: A True Story of Love and Tragedy at the Circus,” is that Leitzel was the product of rape. Her mother, essentially sold into traveling circus servitude by her father near the end of the 19th century, was assaulted by a Scotsman whose small circus roamed Eastern Europe. Leitzel was born when her mother was just 12 years old. Raised by her grandparents while her mother returned to the life of … Read entire article »

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AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: A look into a possible future

News from Sarasota Herald-Tribune: One of my all-time favorite books is David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas,” in which multiple stories across time and space interlock to create a single, tremendous narrative. Echoes of that can be found in Chang-Rae Lee’s new book, “On Such a Full Sea,” where the multiple stories are tied together through the character of a single 16-year-old girl named Fan. Set perhaps a couple of hundred years in the future, “On Such a Full Sea” chronicles life on the Eastern Seaboard of the former United States, now called the Association, which has been literally stratified into three distinct classes. An ecological disaster has caused the great economies to collapse, and what’s left in North America are the Charters, walled villages of the remnants of the upper class; service communities carved … Read entire article »

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AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: Two lives, defined by grief

News from Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Two women, their lives separated by 40 years and an entire continent, form the heart of “The Obituary Writer,” an unusually sensitive portrayal of the changes in women’s lives in the first half (more or less) of the 20th century in America. The book’s overarching theme, however, is that of grief and loss, as experienced by the two women. Claire, an unhappy housewife in the suburbs of Virginia as John F. Kennedy is about to be elected president, finds herself in a loveless marriage to a successful but uninspiring man, mother to a rambunctious toddler and pregnant, she suspects with the child of her lover, a man she met while campaigning for Kennedy and with whom she has been caught in flagrante delicto by her husband. Across the continent … Read entire article »

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Audio book Review: Billy Crystal shines in ‘…

News from The Global Dispatch: Billy Crystal has become a household name and his autobiography and “essays” in Still Foolin Em chronicles the ups-and-downs, the laughs and great interactions with some of the greatest entertainers of all-time. After several “essays” read to live audience, Crystal moves through his early years in 25 minutes, including unforgettable stories about Lew Alcindor, sneezing until he bleeds and the secret words of advice at his bar mitzvah. The journey continues through decade after decade as the listener learns of his friendship and nickname from Muhammad Ali, the awkward meeting with Orson Welles, his friendships with Rob Reiner, Sammy Davis Jr, Martin Short and many others. His growing friendship with Mickey Mantle, ultimately playing catch with the legend, is a great backstory to 61, the film directed by Crystal. Just as charismatic … Read entire article »

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AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: Looking into the lives of five friends in small-town America

News from Sarasota Herald-Tribune: It’s hard to listen to “Shotgun Lovesongs,” Nickolas Butler’s debut novel, and not think of rock stars with Midwestern roots like John Mellencamp or, as is evidently the case here, Bon Iver. One of five main characters in “Shotgun Lovesongs” is a megawatt star who goes by the single moniker Corvus as he tours the globe, but at home in Little Wing, Wis., is just Leland or Lee. His circle of childhood friends includes Henry, the farmer still tilling the family acreage; Kip, who made millions on the commodities exchange in Chicago and has come home to Little Wing to revitalize the small town by turning its derelict mill into a hub of business and culture; Ronny, a former rodeo star whose drunken fall one night has left … Read entire article »

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