Wilhelm just went to Amazon.com looking for the biography of Sarah Palin published last spring. A search on "Sarah Palin" produces this:
Wilhelm just went to Amazon.com looking for the biography of Sarah Palin published last spring. A search on "Sarah Palin" produces this:
Donna Andrews has been writing the Meg Langslow mystery series for some time now and she has yet to hit a false note. Not only is the main character, Meg, as crisp and amusing as she was in the first of these books, Murder With Peacocks, the always new plots and the familiar and sometimes hilarious family members and neighbors in the rural Virginia setting are as fresh as ever.
In this particularly funny novel, The Penguin Who Knew Too Much, the local zoo in Caerphilly is having money problems and the zoo keeper has asked locals to care for various zoo residents until he can get his fiscal affairs in order. But when he is found dead in a hole Meg's dad was digging to create a wading pool for the penguins he has volunteered to babysit, people begin to wonder if they will ever be able to get rid of the animals they have accepted temporarily.
And so these neighbors begin dropping off their charges at Meg's farm. There are camels, hyenas, lemurs, and sloths (the last particularly like hanging from the dining room chandelier.) Then a particularly dislikeable animal rights activist decides to release the animals, beginning with the wolves (who make tracks for the sheep pasture where they find the sheep being guarded by the llamas in a heart-warming scene of inter-species cooperation.)
Meg goes about systematically solving this murder, finding people with a grudge against the dead man and people who are familiar with the crossbow, the weapon used to kill him. She finds herself in some precarious spots, including a lion's den at the not-quite-deserted zoo.
Andrews uses bird names in her titles and she has begun making puns on movie titles. (My favorite is We'll Always Have Parrots.) These are very clever, very witty, very readable mysteries.
Donna Andrews, The Penguin Who Knew Too Much (2007) 262 pages. 4 / 5
From My Friend Amy:
It's time to open nominations for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards 2008!
Listed below are the categories of awards. There are many. You may not have a nomination for each award. It doesn't matter. Nominate up to two blogs per category and send an email to BbawawardsATgmailDOTcom with your choices. You DO NOT have to have a blog to make nominations. Comments left on this post will NOT be accepted as nominations. Each category will be narrowed to the top five blogs by number of nominations received, so don't be shy!!! Support your favorite blogs and bloggers! Nominations will close on August 31st.
And the categories for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards 2008 are:
Best General Book Blog
Best Kidlit Blog
Best Christian/Inspirational Fiction Blog
Best Literary Fiction Blog
Best Book Club Blog
Best Romance Blog
Best Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense Blog
Best Non-fiction Blog
Best Young Adult Lit Blog
Best Book/Publishing Industry Blog
Best Challenge Host
Best Community Builder
Best Cookbook Blog
Best History/Historical Fiction Blog
Most Eclectic Taste
Best Name for a Blog
Best Published Author Blog
Best Book published in 2008
Most Extravagant Giveaways
Best Book Community site
Write In--think we missed something? Write in your category and nomination and if there are enough other write-ins of the same category it will be added!
The Open Door is the best novel I've read in months, better even than The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which was splendid.
The major characters are Constance Fenimore Woolman, grand niece of James Fenimore Cooper, and Henry James. These two were close friends, traveled together, and wrote long and frequent letters to one another. Mainstream theory at the moment believes that Woolman wanted Henry James to marry her and found her life not worth living when he did not propose.
Elizabeth Maguire's book turns this theory on its head and suggests that Henry James wanted to marry Woolman, primarily to provide camouflage for his homosexual adventures. (That he had such adventures is doubted by almost all of his biographers.) The author suggests that Woolman was of great significance in James' fictional development and that he was jealous of the monetary success of her fiction. The latter is probably true as James did not earn a great deal of money despite his fame and the respect in which he was held by the critics.
The dialog between these two novelists and their comments on their friends and family (Alice James, John Hay, and others) are delightful. The author has a real gift for describing the streets and houses of Italy and for making her characters come to life.
Elizabeth Maguire, The Open Door (2008) 236 pages. 4 /5
There is change in the air. The Republican Party is not only no longer the party of Big Business, having been overtaken by the Democrats in money raising among one industry after another. The authors of this fine new book, Grand New Party, make the case that the GOP is now the party of the working class.
It's only very recently that commentators have begun using that term again, working class. For many decades we were all middle class in America. Class was defined by family origin, job, education, salary, and lifestyle. There was the upper middle class - CEOs, college professors, inheritors of wealth. And there was the lower middle class - bus drivers, clerks in Wal-Mart, people on the assembly line at General Motors. The underclass were the unemployed, the dropouts, the people with no future that they could discern from where they were.
In recent years we read more often of an upper class and the term is based largely on income - like those CEOs who now make 400 times more money than the average employee in their company. The middle middle class has come to mean those of us with a steady job making more than about $80,000. And the underclass we always have with us.
But the term working class has come into favor, at first with embarrassment and hemmed with definitions, but now clearly used to mean people with no college degree, getting by with two jobs, in risk of losing those jobs to globalization, and with some interesting social characteristics. These are the people who go to church. They work hard and they try to save money. They stay in the cities and towns where they were born and they rely on family more than the more mobile middle and upper classes. They are irate at the liberal interpretation of the second amendment and insist they are entitled to own guns. They don't know how to spell arugula.
These people - people we tend to consider "the salt of the earth" - are, say the authors of Grand New Party, the new Republicans. People who don't like welfare but who take advantage of government programs that help them when they really need help and only for a short time. Programs like unemployment benefits and Social Security and school vouchers if they can get them. They are people who are fundamentally conservative in the sense that they don't want their government telling them what to do. They are fiercely self-reliant.
Douthat and Salam, editors at the Atlantic magazine, contend that these people that we now call working class are being left behind by the meritocracy - the people with college degrees. They marry other college educated people. They strongly emphasize education and move to neighborhoods where the schools are really good, if they don't actually send their children to private schools. When it's time for their children to get jobs they know whom to call. They don't rub shoulders with the working class as they used to do, not in school, not in church, not in social organizations.
And so we have in the US today a well education meritocratic upper middle class and a working class and not many people in between. And no longer are there many ladders for the children of the working class to climb into the meritocracy as it used to be possible to do.
If the Republican party is alert, say the authors, they will find ways to appeal to these voters who are worried about keeping their health insurance if they lose their jobs. These parents who don't know how to or simply can't assure that their children get an education that will get them into college, and who can't pay for it if they do. The people who see around them rising teen pregnancies, illegitimacy, single parent homes, and children turning to gangs and crime, all factors that they (rightly) blame on the sexual revolution that has left the working class family in shreds but has had little negative effect on the meritocrats.
The authors recommend that the Republican party look to the programs of the New Deal which were not intended as handouts. They were programs that gave people a way to make it through particularly bad times, programs that set them on their feet and sent them off to work toward the American dream. The new working class doesn't want the kind of government programs that the Democratic party has been talking about for many decades now: socialized medicine, increased jobs created by enlarging bureaucracy, and money pumped into failing schools which just allows them to fail more expensively.
Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream (2008) 244 pages. 5/5
Ann Granger's books are well written and amusing and her plots are finely made. Say It With Poison meets and exceeds all these expectations for a lively and complicated mystery. It's the first in the Mitchell/Markby series.
Meredith Mitchell, who is the British consul in some outpost of the former Austro-Hungarian empire, is invited to England by her cousin, a famous actress, to help with the arrangements for a family wedding. When she arrives she discovers a cast of characters who all want something from her cousin. Some of them are decidedly out of place in a Cotswold village.
The aging American television producer wants the actress for his soap opera. The bride-to-be confesses her misgivings, which are many considering her shady past. The crotchety old gardener who lives next door to the dead man has observed some interesting goings-on. The housekeeper knows what everybody in the village is doing and the police inspector, who is to give the bride away, is in a most ambivalent position when he has to investigate a murder while trying to stay loyal to his relations, however remote. The consul isn't helping. Well, she is, but she shouldn't be. She always has her nose in police business but she can't order people around in England the way she can in Ruritania.
When a second body is found the identity of the murderer becomes obvious - at least to Meredith (and me). What should she do about this touchy situation?
Amy Granger, Say It With Poison (1991) 224 pages 4 stars / 5 stars.
Sway is a short, crisp, amusing, and informative book about the psychology of decision making.
Nudge is a long, crisp, amusing, and informative book about the psychology of decision making.
Sway is written from the point of view of you, the decision maker. It warns of the importance of being aware of the ways you may be swayed, especially by those who are not benign.
Nudge is written from the point of view of the "choice architect" who has to create a driver's license application form, choose where to place which food in a cafeteria, or design an employee stock savings plan.
Thaler and Sunstein, the authors of Nudge, consider themselves paternalistic libertarians who feel it's appropriate to put the fruit at eye level in the junior high cafeteria and the cake and cookies above eye level and at the end of the table. Their point is you must display the food in some order and it's more useful to all of us when the healthy choices are more easily available than the french fries.
Both of these books are worth reading. If you're serious about increasing organ donations, preventing another disaster like the sub-prime crisis, improving the government drug plan for seniors, and other important situations where a small nudge might make a big difference for the better, then Nudge is for you. If you just want a very quick and very amusing overview of how we are fooled by salesmen and politicians and how we fool ourselves, Sway is just the ticket.
Not that I want to influence what you read . . .
Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior (2008) by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman 3.5 stars / 5 stars
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (2008) by Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein 4 stars / 5 stars
"I am very disappointed to hear that my publishers, Random House, have canceled another author's novel, apparently because of their concerns about possible Islamic reprisals. This is censorship by fear, and it sets a very bad precedent indeed."
This is the comment from Salmon Rushdie about the decision at Random House to "postpone indefinitely" the publishing of a book that was to have been released on 12 August, Sherry Jones' The Jewel of Medina, a novel about the 11-year-old wife of Muhammad.
If Random House had rejected Jones' manuscript I would have no complaint. But they accepted it, they paid her $100,000, and the book is now in print. Random House decided not to publish because of the warnings of an academic at the University of Texas, Denise Spellberg, who called it a "very ugly, stupid piece of work." (Not exactly a nuanced review.) Spellberg warned that
"publication would expose Random House employees to Islamic terrorism and that Muslims would react with the kind of violence seen in past controversies over The Satanic Verses and the Jyllands-Posten Danish cartoons."
And so Random House canceled publication:
"We stand firmly by our responsibility to support our authors," said Random House, "and the free discussion of ideas, even those that may be construed as offensive by some. However, a publisher must weigh that responsibility against others that it also bears, and in this instance we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel."
I think Sara Nelson said it best in this week's Publisher's Weekly:
"When Peter Mayer stoutly defended Viking's obligation to stand by Salman Rushdie, it was 20 years ago. It was a brave move, one true to publishing's version of the Hippocratic oath. But that was then. The new now is a a post-9/11, 'war on terrorism' now. Should a publisher alter its behavior, its core values, because of changing realities? Terrorists would love to think so."
No kidding. It's Ronan, which is on the Flathead Indian Reservation. It's named after a Civil War officer who was an Indian agent.
If you follow the link above and click on "Photo Gallery" you will see Lake Mary Ronan in the background of the photo of the red barn.
Is there a lake with your name on it?
The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi is far from dissatisfying. This is truly Donna Leone meets Franz Kafka. The two journalists who pursued the identity of the Monster, a serial killer who preyed on young couples spooning in the hills around the city, became a part of the story, so much a part of the story that Preston was indicted and Spezi was jailed and accused of being the Monster.
These ludicrous accusations were made because Spezi and Preston were too successful in their pursuit of the Monster. Their discoveries put the lie to the official line of inquiry, to which the entire Italian justice system was committed despite its depending on Satanic cults, mentally retarded and psychotic "witnesses," and a conspiracy that included a quarter of the population of Tuscany from peasants to the nobility.
My favorite line of official reasoning was the theory that the bad guys wanted it to look as though a doctor who had been murdered had really committed suicide by drowning himself. So the murderers exchanged his corpse with the body of another man who really had drowned. Well, this leads to a lot of questions but it's been done, and I suspect it's been done in Italy rather more often than in, say, Wales.
However, when an exhumation is done 17 years after the burial, the doctor is found in the grave where the other guy had been buried, and what's more he is found to have been murdered. The police and district attorney-equivalent believe that the bad guys, anticipating the possibility that their substitution might be brought to light, switched the bodies again. The doctor's body (we have no clue where it's been for the last 17 years) was now placed in the grave and the body of the mysterious other man was spirited away. Unlikely as this story seems, the justice system holds firmly to it and argues its likelihood with a straight face.
It gets worse. Much worse. The story is mesmerizing. There's the antique Tuscan doorstop that's used to communicate with the underworld. There's the old .22 pistol used in every one of the murders along with cartridges from the same old box. There's the Sardinian tough guy who is thought to have murdered his wife. There's incest, sex games, clouds of questionable witnesses, a tremendous amount of unnecessary official secrecy, complicated family dynamics that put ancient Rome to shame, and the story of the filming of the movie from Tom Harris' book, Hannibal Rising (the character was based on the Monster) in the pallazo of a thoroughly charming Italian count. And a great deal more.