Category Archives: The Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon (Dec. 7)

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This week I finished Something Rising (Light and Swift) by Haven Kimmel. Although I’ll read other works by the author, I can’t recommend this one. It doesn’t touch A Girl Named Zippy (which I listened to). Something Rising never took off in the second half, as reviews promised. The plot finally thickened and the pace picked up in the last 50 or so pages, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but it took too long to get there.

Now I’m about three-quarters of the way through Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip. This seems an appropriate time of year to read it, although the title refers to the summer solstice, not winter. I rarely read fantasy, but I do enjoy the genre when the story is set in contemporary times, as this book is, and the fantasy isn’t overwhelming. In the late summer and early fall, I read three such books: The Limits of Enchantment by Graham Joyce, an intriguing novel with a touch of fantasy, and two books by Lisa Tuttle, The Silver Bough and The Mysteries, my favorite of the two. The latter was more a detective story with elements of fantasy woven into the tale. Solstice Wood is pretty good, too. Until this recent surge of interest, I probably hadn’t read fantasy in a decade – unless The Time Traveler’s Wife qualifies. It’s a pleasant change of pace.

My current audio book is Isabel Allende’s Ines of My Soul. I listen to audio books only in my car, and with my short commute to work and the limited driving I do around town, it takes me awhile to hear a book – except when I go out of town, of course, which I often do. I’m almost through the second of nine discs, and it’s a good story so far.

I’ve discovered that I really enjoy listening to books set in foreign lands (Memoirs of a Geisha, A Thousand Splendid Suns) because I don’t have to stumble over the pronunciation of names and words . Were I reading this book, I’d be pronouncing Ines with a long i instead of a long e, for example, and I’m sure I’d have difficulty with which syllables to accent, as my Spanish is limited.  Although I’ve read several of Allende’s books, this is the first time I’ve listened to one.

Hope everyone has a good week ahead and enjoys the season of lights during these long nights!

Edit 12/08: I suppose I should have mentioned the Harry Potter books when mentioning fantasy. I read all of them.

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Sunday Salon: A Slack Reader

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Between my boss’s retirement on Wednesday and going out of town for the first part of the holidays to help my parents with Thanksgiving – and playing with photos on my other blog – I didn’t read too much last week. I barely began reading The Heretic’s Daughter last weekend before deciding to save it for a time with fewer interruptions.

Instead, I’ve read about half of Haven Kimmel’s Something Rising (Light and Swift). The same day that Wendy posted a review of The Robber Bride by one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood, I went in search of it at the used bookstore I frequent during lunch. I scored – for $23 I picked up The Robber Bride and The Blind Assassin, along with Kimmel’s book and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty.

Last summer I listened to the audiobook of Kimmel’s memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, and loved it.  I decided to read Something Rising, figuring it wouldn’t be as demanding of my undivided attention. So far, the book is a pleasant enough coming-of-age story, and if you like to shoot pool, you’ll love it.  It’s not heavy on plot, but Kimmel is a lovely writer. Although Cassie lacks the personality of Zippy so far, I understand the book takes off in the second half, and I’ll be along for the ride.

Speaking of audiobooks, I finished listening to Jane Green’s The Beach House last week – a guilty pleasure indeed, because it’s truly chick-lit beach reading. But I enjoyed it and its multitude of characters in audio format, regardless of how shallow and contrived they (and their situations) were. The book reminds me of the Low Country writers – what I call the three-name southern writers: Dorothea Benton Frank, Mary Alice Monroe, Anne Rivers Siddon – in nearly every respect. If you enjoy any of them, you’ll probably like the Nantucket setting for the same themes – preserving the family home against rising coastal property values and predator developers, marital discord, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. It’s all there, even a hint at the end of Monroe’s environmental overtones.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

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Sunday Salon: A Few New Finds

brrrWe’ve been experiencing an exceptionally chilly November for our area over the past week. Usually I read for an hour at least before bedtime. But last week, after snuggling under the down comforter, I was unable to read more than a few pages before growing sleepy…verrryy sleepy. The fact that I’ve been so busy at work didn’t help.

I did finally finish The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters, and I think I’ll review it later this week. Now I’m digging into The Heretic’s Daughter, historical fiction about the Salem witch trials written by a direct descendent of one of the victims.

A couple of nonfiction titles drew my attention this week. The Flavor Bible, written by husband-and-wife team Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, promises to show readers how to intuitively combine flavors and creatively use herbs, spices, and other seasonings to enliven their cooking.

Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory, by humorist Roy J. Blount, Jr. (of NPR’s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me), sounds like a laugh-out-loud way to learn more about usage and the English language.

Another foodie book to be released in January, this one a novel, also sounds intriquing. The School of Essential Ingredients is described as “reminiscent of Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate, a gorgeously written novel about life, love, and the magic of food.” Can’t wait to read this one.

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Sunday Salon: Writers on Writing

What: Adventures in Pen Land: One Writer’s Journey from Inklings to Ink

Who: Marianne Gingher, with illustrations by Daniel Wallace

Why: Because this is a cool concept – an illustrated book – remember those? I read about this book in the Arts section of our local Sunday newspaper this week, and I’m intrigued for several reasons.

gingher1I’ve never read any of Gingher’s novels, but hers was among my favorite entries in The Store of Joys: Writer’s Celebrate the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Fiftieth Anniversary. I became museum editor shortly after this compilation, published in 1996, which featured North Carolina writers and poets commenting on a work in the museum’s collection.

I recently listened to the audiobook of Big Fish (which also became a film that I have yet to see) by Daniel Wallace, and I loved it. I’m a sucker for mythology ever since Latin class in the early 1970s. Wallace designed greeting cards before hitting the big time with Big Fish. Gingher also teaches English at UNC-Chapel Hill, and the collaboration sounds perfect.

According to the article, Gingher chronologically describes her literary struggles in a series of essays both poignant and funny. I love reading books about writing, so I’m looking forward to this one.

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