Monthly Archives: June 2012
Sometimes I have new mom brain. It took me until I was about halfway through reading Norah Vincent’s “Thy Neighbor” to realize I’d read a previous book of Vincent’s — her non-fiction memoir, “Voluntary Madness,” about a year spent in America’s mental health system.
I’m pleased to say that “Thy Neighbor,” her fiction debut, is as powerful as her bestselling non-fiction.
Guys, “Thy Neighbor” is a messed up book. I mean that as a compliment. Our narrator, Nick, lives a life of booze and excess after the murder-suicide of his parents thirteen years earlier. He’s such a destroyed person, he’s spying on all his neighbors — like, has cameras in their houses. His neighbors, meanwhile, are a screwed-up bunch. It’s amazing what goes on behind the walls of picture-perfect suburbia. Nick’s inner thoughts brought Holden Caulfield, of “The Catcher in the Rye,” to mind several times. He’s a tortured soul — though it’s mostly self-torturing. Not that anyone around him is living a world of sunshine and lollipops. There’s child abuse and infidelity and bad people and missing people. It’s a dark, dark world that our Nick inhabits. No wonder he’s a wreck of a person.
I look forward to whatever Norah Vincent writes next. She’s proven herself as a non-fiction author, and “Thy Neighbor” is a powerful and gripping debut.
At nineteen, I think I liked *NSync and was a dorky clueless freshman in college.)
Now try to imagine being nineteen years old and a saint – a real live, miracle healer saint.
Ugh. Stressful, right?
This high-pressure double act is the deal for Teresita, the heroine of Luis Alberto Urrea’s “Queen of America.” This book, it turns out, is actually a sequel to Urrea’s previous novel, “The Hummingbird’s Daughter.” I haven’t read the first book, and am pleased to say I didn’t once feel like I needed to in order to understand the happenings in this incredibly engrossing and solid read. In the vividly written, “Queen of America,” Teresita and her father Tomas have fled Mexico to America, where Teresita’s fame follows her. Even as she’s dealing with hired assassins and her own growing up, she has to deal with fame equaling that of any modern pop star. And romance. Of course there’s romance.
I got this book for free at The Book Cellar in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood — an advance copy when I purchased one of their staff pick books — and I couldn’t be happier about it. Urrea writes Teresita and the characters around her with love and care, which makes sense once you learn that Saint Teresita was a real person who is actually a distance relative of his. So it turns out this book I just happened to have read is actually really great historical fiction and I learned something!
An exciting history lesson told through exquisite prose? I’m there.
There should really be a label put on books that indicates they shouldn’t be read by anxious new parents. Painting a vivid, detail-by-detail portrait of a parent’s worst nightmare “The Weight of Silence” is one of those books.
Seven-year-old Calli and Petra are best friends who live in a nice town. One morning, their respective parents wake up to find both little girls missing. With this moment, the book takes off like a rocket, spinning through the narratives of a variety of people closest to the girls in the hours to follow – Calli’s Mom and Brother, Petra’s Dad, and a Detective. What happened to the girls? Were they taken? Who took them – was it Calli’s Dad, her brother? Was it the Guidance Counselor Calli’s been working with? Was it a teenage friend of Petra’s family? As a reader, you can barely breathe as the minutes and hours tick by and the mysteries and knots tying all these people together untangle.
Seriously, this is a fast and thrilling read.
As a new mom, it terrified me.
Ah, the power of literature.
For those of us with wanderlust who don’t have unlimited funds, travel guides serve a special purpose – they’re the books of dreams. Personally, if it’s so much as suggested that I might get to travel someplace, I’ll likely head right out in search of a guide to the place — and, if I’m lucky, the people at Lonely Planet (who have my undying loyalty and love) have created a guide for my trip of dreams.
My husband and I traveled to Hawa’ii (specifically the island of O ‘ahu) for our honeymoon in 2010, and fell head over heels for the beauty and history of these amazing islands. We’ve been talking about going back (and retiring there) since the day we returned, and recently pretty much decided to return on our 5 year wedding anniversary, with our son – who will be about three and a half – in tow. On O’ahu, we didn’t see any volcanoes, so it’s The Big Island this time around.
Off I went to the Chicago Public Library, where I’ve recently discovered an incredible collection of Lonely Planet guides. I picked up “Hawaii The Big Island” and have been reading it while letting my mind peruse the possibilities. Being a Lonely Planet guide, of course it’s well laid-out and has gorgeous photography, but it’s the insider information that keeps me addicted to this company. Already, I’ve learned that November is when the Kona coffee belt has an annual coffee festival, that I probably want to stay in Hilo, and all about the trek to the volcano and night dives with manta rays. There are sections on being green in Hawaii, local myths and legends, and suggested itineraries for differing length trips to the islands as well.
Now, granted, the edition I got from the library is from 2008 so I’ll obviously do some more up-to-date research over the next few years, but with this guide in hand I feel like my education as to the wonder of The Big Island is beginning.