Wish I Could Be There

Tales from the Reading Room have a review of Allen Shawn’s memoir Wish I Could Be There. Allen’s book explores how his agoraphobia has shaped his life and career as a pianist and composer. This is a fantastic review of Shawn’s book and makes a strong argument for why you should read it.

Tales from the Reading Room

wish i could be thereThe feeling of panic that overwhelms the sufferer of a phobia must be one of the most unpleasant feelings that we are routinely forced to endure. I think that being set upon from behind and strangled must be akin to it – the increasingly laboured fight for breath while the heart hammers in terror, digestion deliquesces, vision dims and dizzies, sound is cut off and comes from far away. But worst of all, the urge to turn and run, fuelled as if by the energy of a nuclear explosion, has to be ignored. The phobic must sit and smile and try and look normal, while inside chaos rages, the Titanic sinks, great earthquakes rent the foundations of the self. Oh yes, I speak from personal experience.

Which is why I had to get hold of Allen Shawn’s amazing memoir, Wish I Could Be There, as soon as I heard…

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Two Brief Reviews: China Dolls and Owen’s Daughter

Victoria Best has reviews of two books, Lisa See’s China Dolls and Jo-Ann Mapson’s Owen’s Daughter, at her blog Tales from the Reading Room. Best found both of the books to be interesting and engrossing. Check out her reviews.

Tales from the Reading Room

ChinaDollsI was very curious to read Lisa See, having seen her previous books travel around the blog world to mixed, but mostly positive reviews. China Dolls focuses on the situation for Oriental immigrants in America around the Second World War, and in particular the life of dancers and entertainers. Starting in 1938 in San Francisco, three young women come together in friendship as they try to make a living, and a life, for themselves. Grace is American-born Chinese, running from an abusive father. Helen comes from a large, traditional family in Chinatown and Ruby, as no one knows at first, is actually Japanese but hiding it. The Oriental nightclub, Forbidden City, is holding auditions for showgirls and over the course of these, the girls get to know one another and bond, though the friendship they share will always be shot through with rivalries and tensions, caused by the competitiveness of…

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

A Little Blog of Books has a review of Michel Faber’s anticipated new book The Book of Strange New Things. This genre crossing book combines science fiction and biblical elements to tell a story about a pastor ministering to inhabitants of another planet. Check out Little Blog of Books new review.

A Little Blog of Books

The Book of Strange New ThingsI was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy of Michel Faber’s new novel ‘The Book of Strange New Things’ which is due to be published in the UK this month. It tells the story of Peter Leigh, a Christian minister who is chosen by a mysterious corporation called USIC to embark on an out-of-this-world mission to a planet called Oasis in a far-away galaxy. Expecting a hostile reception from the native population, Peter is surprised to find the Oasans are keen to learn from the Bible which they refer to as The Book of Strange New Things and discovers that he isn’t the first pastor to visit them. However, Peter’s pregnant wife, Bea, is struggling to survive as various apocalyptic events unfold back on Earth which is putting a strain on their extremely long-distance relationship.

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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

A Little Blog of Books has a review of one the Kirkus Prize Finalists for Fiction, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.

A Little Blog of Books

The Paying GuestsI feel very spoilt having two of my favourite authors publish new books this summer. First, ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage‘ by Haruki Murakami and now ‘The Paying Guests’ by Sarah Waters. Set in London shortly after the First World War, unmarried Frances Wray and her widowed mother have fallen on hard times and are forced to rent out rooms at their home in Camberwell. Frances becomes increasingly close to their young and modern “paying guests”, Leonard and Lilian Barbour. However, her relationship with Lilian soon triggers an unexpected and violent chain of events.

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The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff has a review of Neel Mukherjee’s book The Lives of Others which was shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. The Little Blog describes the book as “an ambitious and richly detailed family saga” of three generations of Indian family in 1967 Calcutta. The Little Blog states that the book “deserves it place” on the Booker shortlist. Check out The Little Blog’s review.

A Little Blog of Books

The Lives of OthersShortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, ‘The Lives of Others’ by Neel Mukherjee tells the story of twenty-one year old Supratik Ghosh who has left his comfortable family home in Calcutta/Kolkata to join the Communist Party of India. Set primarily in 1967, the story alternates between Supratik’s new life as a Naxalite activist and guerilla fighter working in the rice fields of West Bengal and the everyday lives of the relatives he has left behind. 

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David Mitchell in the Labyrinth of Time: Review of THE BONE CLOCKS and Preview of an Interview with the Author

The University of Wisconsin Press blog has both a review of David Mitchell’s (author of Cloud Atlas) new book, The Bone Clocks, and brief interview with Mitchell. The Bone Clock “follows a central character’s life through six decades in six sections.” Some of the sections follow the protagonist Holly Sykes while others allow other characters to tell her story through their interactions with her. Check out Paul A. Harris’s review of Mitchell’s book.

University of Wisconsin Press

As an online preview of a special issue of SubStance devoted to David Mitchell’s fiction, we are posting a review-essay of his book by Paul Harris and an excerpt of an interview with the author. The interview will appear in the special issue in spring 2015.

The Bone Clocks coverA Review of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks
by Paul A. Harris, Editor, SubStance

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, the latest iteration of his fractal imagination, follows a central character’s life through six decades in six sections that simultaneously succeed as stand-alone stories. Protagonist Holly Sykes narrates the first and final chapters; in the middle ones, her life is seen prismatically through the lenses of others who cross her path: Cambridge student Hugo Lamb, war journalist Ed Brubeck, bad-boy author Crispin Hershey, and Horologist Marinus. Navigating this narrative proves to be a rollicking ride: the plot is a propulsive page-turner, picking up…

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Review—Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman

Emerging Civil War has a review of Robert L. O’Connell’s book Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman. O’Connell’s book tries to make sense of Sherman live by compartmentalizing it in three different sections: The Military Strategist, The General and His Army, and The Man and His Families. While this structure makes the book somewhat repetitive it helps organize Grant’s somewhat chaotic story. Check out Derek D. Maxfield’s review at Emerging Civil War.

Emerging Civil War

O'Connell-coverToday we are pleased to welcome guest author Derek D. Maxfield with a review of Robert L. O’Connell’s Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman (New York: Random House, 2014).

He is perhaps the most eccentric general of the Civil War. With his red hair, piercing eyes, and fidgety manner, William Tecumseh Sherman has been called a prophet by some and madman by others. But whatever the label, Sherman was one of the reasons the Union was preserved.

The latest brave soul to try to get to know Sherman is Robert L. O’Connell. His new book, Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman, is aptly titled and well done. O’Connell seeks to come to terms with the general topically, instead of the standard chronological approach. The book is divided into three main sections: “The Military Strategist,” “The General and His Army,” and “The Man and His…

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We Were Liars: Too Unbelievable For Fiction?

The Misfortune of Knowing has a book review of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. A.M.B. says that the book is in some ways a direct homage to King Lear and Wuthering Heights, but with more plot holes. Check out The Misfortune of Knowing.

The Misfortune Of Knowing

We Were LiarsE. Lockhart’s We Were Liars begins ominously: “Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family. No one is a criminal. No one is an addict. No one is a failure.” The Sinclairs are attractive, wealthy, and messed up. Seventeen-year-old Cadence Sinclair Eastman, the eldest grandchild of Tipper and Harris Sinclair, is giving away her belongings, one by one, except for her well-used library card. When she was 15, something terrible happened to her—and to her family—but she can’t remember it, and no one will tell her the truth.

Sadly, someone on the Internet under the guise of being a “book reviewer” told me what happened to Cadence (without a “spoiler alert”). Already knowing the twist—and feeling rather uncomfortable about it—I wouldn’t have read this novel had it not been the latest selection for Katie’s Fellowship of the Worms.* I decided to join in the read-along to assess how well Lockhart pulled off…

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Sorry Television reviews Flash Boys

Here is Sorry Television’s review of Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. Flash Boys is Lewis’s most recent book about Wall Street. Flash Boys could be best described as a non-fiction mystery book. It examines how one man and stuffy Canadian bank unraveled the mystery of high frequency trading and attempted to help their clients avoid a rigged market. Check out Sorry Television’s review.

Sorry Television

flash-boys-jkt_1I know, I know–reviewing Flash Boys is so last week. But I approach my reading the way I approach my running: Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, just get there in your own time. (Incidentally, this is also how I approach fashion, new music, travel, food fads, and pool.)

If you’ve managed to miss out on the Flash Boys Extravaganza (which sounds like a raunchy Chippendales show), it goes like this: Michael Lewis, best known for writing the seminal Wall Street memoir Liar’s Poker, as well as The Blind Side and Moneyball, published a book about high-frequency trading in which he said, essentially, that the stock market is rigged against the average investor. Flash Boys, which primarily investigates high-frequency trading through the eyes of Royal Bank of Canada whiz kid Brad Katsuyama, unpacks the wonky details of HFT to a damning conclusion: Firms are exploiting technological and regulatory…

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Book #27: The Sound And The Fury

Robert Bruce has a wonderful blog named 101 Books. Bruce is reading his way through Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Novels. Book #27 is William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury. While I am partial to The Sound and the Fury, I completely understand Bruce’s critique. It is a wonderful book, but Faulkner’s stream of consciousness can wear a person down. It is book that almost requires professional assistance. Enjoy Bruce’s review.

101 Books

Reading The Sound and The Fury helped me realize something important: This 101 book project is a lot like marathon training.

Over the course of the 16 weeks I trained, I made somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 runs. Every now and then, maybe once every 10 runs, I would step outside, walk down my driveway, and seriously consider skipping that training run.

I just didn’t want to put in the effort that day. I felt unmotivated and thought, What’s it going to hurt to skip one 5 mile run anyway? But I willed myself to put one foot in front of the other. And after about 45 minutes of running, I completed my mileage goal for the day.

Even if I was simply going through the motions–getting the “mileage in”–I still felt a sense of accomplishment, satisfied that I had fought through that desire to quit.


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