Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An Arsonists Guide To Writers' Homes In New England by Brock Clarke

An Arsonist's Guide To Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
Published September 2007 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Source: I bought this one January 28, 2009 from Barnes and Noble. How do I know this? Because the packing slip was still in the book!

Publisher's Summary:
A lot of remarkable things have happened to Sam Pulsifer, beginning with the ten years he spent in prison for accidentally burning down Emily Dickinson's house and unwittingly killing two people. Emerging at the age of twenty-eight, he creates a new life as a husband and father. But when the homes of other famous writers go up in smoke, he must prove his innocence by uncovering the identity of this literary-minded arsonist.


My Thoughts:
I first heard about this book in December 2007 on NPR; it was a holiday recommendation by an independent bookseller. You're pretty impressed with my memory right about now aren't you? Don't be. I knew I had to have learned about it on NPR; there was very little chance this was a book anyone I knew would have recommended it to me. More than a year later, I found it on clearance at Barnes and Noble and, not too surprisingly, remembered the title. Then it sat on my bookshelves for more than five years, in no small part because just a few months later this blog was born and new books started rolling into my mailbox. Which is one reason the TBR Pile Challenge is so important.

Some publisher's summaries revel too much detail, some are brilliant. This one seems determined not to give away too much about the book, including the fact that it's a novel (albeit one written as a memoir) and that it's a satire. Dark, very dark, humor. I'm not opposed to dark humor; heck, I love the Coen brothers' movies. But oh my goodness, this was depressingly dark. With the exception of Sam's children there was not a single character to be liked, Sam least of all.

Sam is, by his own account, a bumbler, socially inept and almost entirely lacking in common sense. The reviewer for the Chicago Tribune said is "impossible not to care about and laugh with Sam." I beg to differ. We've all had those people in our lives who we start out trying to help because we can see they need it but end up backing away from because they simply refuse to help themselves. Sam is one of those people. I may be jaded from having had too many of those experiences. Instead of caring about Sam, I wanted to slap him. Repeatedly. It's hard to feel sorry for someone who neglected to tell the woman he was marrying that he had spent ten years in prison and lied and told her that his parents were dead then is surprised by how badly she takes it when this all comes out.

So while I "got" the humor of An Arsonist's Guide To Writers' Homes In New England, it dragged for me as Clarke used letters Sam had received in prison to introduce new characters and bury Sam in deeper and deeper trouble. No doubt about it, Clarke does have a biting wit. It just got lost too often for me.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bout of Books 11

I know what you're thinking - why would she sign up for yet another read-a-thon she's bound to fail at? Because hope springs eternal! Even though I know I have book club Tuesday and will spend part of Thursday evening at a Rainbow Rowell book event, The Big Guy is out of town this week. That means that except for whatever football games are on, the television will mostly be off and it will be very quiet around here.

Here's what I'm hoping to get read:

1. Finish Bob Greene's Once Upon A Town
2. Read Thrity Umrigar's The Story Hour
3. At least get a good start on another book I have for review, although I'm not sure which one I'll pick up yet. I'd love to get the whole book read while I've got the extra reading time!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Life: It Goes On - August 17

Happy Sunday, all! It's been tough getting back into the routine this week at my house. After a very busy ten days prior and being somewhat off schedule in the weeks before that, it's felt kind of good. We finally got back into our walking routine and my legs ache to prove it, which is a good thing.

I'm still working to get caught up on my blog reading and mail. I need to  find a couple of hours one of these days to devote to the computer; maybe Labor Day since we don't have plans for that extra day off work.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I finished Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves this week. For now, let's just say, if I'd been reading instead of listening, I would have put it down unfinished. Tomorrow I'll start another M. C. Beaton Hamish McBeth mystery, Death Of A Cad. I really need something light and quick.

Watching: NFL preseason football. There's a part of me that feels guilty watching football these days, knowing what it does to the players bodies and brains. But lordy, you all know how much this girl loves this sport!

Reading: I'll finish Bob Greene's Once Upon A Town tomorrow for book club and Thrity Umrigar's latest, The Story Hour, for a TLC tour next week.

Making: Homemade pizza rolls, cucumber dip, BLT's and an egg casserole for breakfast this morning. The pizza rolls were an experiment that we all liked but I'll be tweaking the process when we make them again.

Planning: Our first football party of the season in just two weeks. Can't wait to watch our Huskers kick off the season surrounded by Mama Shepp's kids.

Grateful for: Fresh produce straight from my garden at every meal. It tastes so much better and it's great to know how much healthier we're eating.

Enjoying: Evenings on the patio. It's continued to be uncharacteristically mild here for August and I can't seem to get enough outside time.

Feeling: Happy to have had this weekend with nothing on the calendar so we can get caught up on some cleaning and projects.

Looking forward to: My book club's meeting and a book store event with Rainbow Rowell this week. What are you looking forward to this week?

Friday, August 15, 2014

How Not To Reduce The Books On Your Shelves


I had very few reading commitments this month and have been working really hard to read books that have been living on my shelves for a while so I could, you know, maybe get rid of the piles on the floor. But today when I went to the library book sale to pick up some new audio books (which I'd like to point out will live in my car and not on my floor), I found very few books I really wanted to listen to...and six dollars yet to spend. I always take cash and my goal is usually to spend as close to the exact amount of cash I have without going over. So I HAD so spend that last six dollars. Which meant I had to buy actually books. Which will live on my floor. For who knows how long.

one of the gardens at the library
I got Mrs. Dalloway and M.C. Beaton's Death of a Maid on audio and Tigers In Red Weather, The Weird Sisters and The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God in print. In my defense, I did put back Dan Simmon's Drood which I'm pretty sure weighs in at 10 lbs. Curiously, they also had this one on audio and while it most definitely did not say "abridged" any place on the box, I find it hard to believe that they got 800 pages of book onto seven discs. Had to pass on that on principle alone.

Also, I might have added a couple of books on my Nook this week. But they're invisible so they don't count, right? Have you brought any new books into your home this week?


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski

Objects Of My Affection by Jill Smolinski
Published May 2012 by Touchstone
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Lucy Bloom is broke, freshly dumped by her boyfriend, and forced to sell her house to send her nineteen-year-old son to drug rehab. Although she’s lost it all, she’s determined to start over. So when she’s offered a high-paying gig helping clear the clutter from the home of reclusive and eccentric painter Marva Meier Rios, Lucy grabs it. Armed with the organizing expertise she gained while writing her book, Things Are Not People, and fueled by a burning desire to get her life back on track, Lucy rolls up her sleeves to take on the mess that fills every room of Marva’s huge home. Lucy soon learns that the real challenge may be taking on Marva, who seems to love the objects in her home too much to let go of any of them.

While trying to stay on course toward a strict deadline—and with an ex-boyfriend back in the picture, a new romance on the scene, and her son’s rehab not going as planned—Lucy discovers that Marva isn’t just hoarding, she is also hiding a big secret. The two form an unlikely bond, as each learns from the other that there are those things in life we keep, those we need to let go—but it’s not always easy to know the difference.

My Thoughts:
It looks light, right? Even after you read the summary and see hoarding, drug rehab, and financial disaster, you look at the cover and think light. And it is, to an extent. Objects of My Affection has plenty of humor and there are those two great-looking guys that Lucy basically drools over so there's that froth.

But Smolinski balances that with two interesting story lines about parenting and a wonderful look at how we hold on to things, both physical and emotional. Y'all know how much I love to declutter (I have no idea when I became Southern) but how I also have those things that feed my soul that I have to hang onto so you know there's a part of me that can relate to both Lucy and Marva. Except that Lucy doesn't believe in hanging on to anything and Marva doesn't believe in letting go of anything - the journey of Objects of My Affection is in helping both of them find the middle ground.