Monday, April 23, 2012

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2012, or not?!

I can't believe I didn't realize this until now (since the awards were given a week ago), but there was no Pulitzer Prize for Fiction awarded this year! For the eleventh time in Pulitzer's history (and the first since 1977), no book received the Fiction Prize.

What?

I didn't really know this was an option. None of the 3 books nominated for the fiction prize received a majority of the votes, so the judges didn't hand out the award. These were the books nominated:

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

.Thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree has lived her entire life at Swamplandia!, her family’s island home and gator-wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades. But when illness fells Ava’s mother, the park’s indomitable headliner, the family is plunged into chaos; her father withdraws, her sister falls in love with a spooky character known as the Dredgeman, and her brilliant big brother, Kiwi, defects to a rival park called The World of Darkness. As Ava sets out on a mission through the magical swamps to save them all, we are drawn into a lush and bravely imagined debut that takes us to the shimmering edge of reality.

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Foster Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has.

The Pale King remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace's death, but it is a deeply compelling and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions--questions of life's meaning and of the value of work and society--through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace's unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for one of the most daring writers of our time.

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Robert Grainer is a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century—an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime.

Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West—its otherworldly flora and fauna, its rugged loggers and bridge builders—the new novella by the National Book Award-winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.

Wow!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Group Picture-The Reader


We missed Mary this month. She was recovering from her vacation! Almost all of us loved or really liked this book...Linda was the only one who thought it was just okay (until she saw the movie clip)!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Calico Joe by John Grisham


Amazon Q & A with John Grisham

Q: What's your favorite baseball team?
A: St. Louis Cardinals. My father was a Cardinals fan, as was my grandfather. When I was a kid growing up in the rural south, everyone listened to the Cardinals on the radio. We seldom missed a game.

Q: What's your most memorable game--as player, coach, or fan?
A: I played a lot of baseball when I was a kid and teenager, but I do not recall making any spectacular plays. When I coached baseball, my teams usually lost. As a fan, Game 6 of the World Series last year, Cardinals vs. Rangers, comes to mind.

Q: Have you played or coached baseball? What position?
A: I was an average high school baseball player with big dreams. I tried to play in college, but got myself cut in the fall practices. I was an outfielder with a weak arm.

Q: Why are there seemingly more baseball books--both fiction and nonfiction--than other sports?
A: Baseball is a uniquely American sport, and it is the oldest organized sport in the country. It has a rich and colorful history, and up until the last generation, it was the most popular sport for kids to play. Sadly, that is changing.

Q: Who was the Joe Castle of your childhood--a player you revered? And was there a Warren Tracey?
A: I was never much of a Red Sox fan, but I adored Tony Conigliaro. He was a great player, and a certain Hall of Famer. The beanball that struck him in the eye ruined a great career.

Q: While researching Calico Joe, did you attend or watch games? Did you write any of the book at a stadium?
A: I only write in one place, and that's my office at home. I take a lot of notes when I travel around and research, which I did for Calico Joe.

Q: Did you employ any other behind-the-scenes techniques--watch old footage, interview players, read old issues of Sports Illustrated?
A: Yes, all of the above. I interviewed several former major league players. I read lots of old magazines, news articles, and books about baseball, and specifically, The Code. I found some footage of famous beanball wars of recent times.

Q: Do the beanball or the brushback have a place in today's baseball? Even Joe seemed to accept them as "part of the game."
A: Yes. There are times in baseball when a particular hitter must get hit. There are many reasons for this, but retaliation is always a factor. Problems arise though when the pitch is above the shoulders, and aimed at batter's head. If a pitcher does this intentionally, and they do it all the time, they are fooling around with a player's career. Throwing at a batter's head is never acceptable in baseball, even as retaliation.

Q: Have you ever been hit? Have you ever hit someone else?
A: Every baseball player gets hit. Fortunately, I was never beaned in the head. Our coaches never let me anywhere near the pitcher's mound, so I never hit a batter.

Q: Do you love baseball? If so, why? Any concerns that the sport and its stars (as Warren gripes in the book) have changed?
A: I still love baseball but it's not the game of my youth. The pro game today is dominated by money and, frankly, there is a lot of bad baseball being played. I find it frustrating, but I always get pumped at World Series time. College baseball is far more exciting.

Review
Calico Joe had every kid's baseball fantasy - lightening start in his big league debut, the lifting of a sad-sack team (the Cubs) to contender status, broken records, the adulation of his teammates and fans - and then he didn't. John Grisham has written a very good and captivating story - more than a baseball story, though America's game is the canvass upon which this tragedy is painted.

Warren Tracey was also a big leaguer - a pitcher - with the kind of stats that define most careers in the bigs: occasionally good, usually mediocre and sometimes awful. He was destined to never be remembered except by trivia hounds once his career reached its uncelebrated end - until his involvement in a baseball drama that ensured his name would be written in baseball lore, though not in any manner he would have desired.

The story is told through the eyes of Warren's eleven year old boy Paul and alternates between 1973, the year Calico Joe and Warren were in the game together, and thirty years later when all three characters are still living lives vastly influenced by the events of that year. Warren not only contributed to one of the game's great "what ifs," but also through his wretched performance as a father and husband, ensured that his family would bear the influence of being of and with Warren Tracey.

I won't go into more because detail would give away the drama to this slim book. Although not nearly as long as most Grisham novels, this story is worth the read. It is perfect for a single-evening immersion, so if you are the type of reader who likes to occasionally fully immerse yourself for a couple of hours with a good story and see it through to the end, this is your book. It reminded me somewhat of Grisham's book "The Testament" in that it touches on some of the same themes. It also is in the vein of "Bleachers" and "Painted House."

D.E.A.R. Day

It's D.E.A.R Day: Drop Everything And Read! It was established in honor of Beverly Cleary's birthday. Read one of her books to celebrate the day. Who's your favorite character of Beverly Cleary's?
Ramona
Ralph
Beezus
Henry
Ribsy
Maggie
Socks
Ellen
Otis
Emily
Leigh
Mitch and Amy

My favorite is Ramona!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

April Indie Next List

Have you seen the Indie Next List for April? Lots of great-sounding books, including this one...

The Good Father by Noah Hawley

As the Chief of Rheumatology at Columbia Presbyterian, Dr. Paul Allen's specialty is diagnosing patients with conflicting symptoms, patients other doctors have given up on. He lives a contented life in Westport with his second wife and their twin sons—hard won after a failed marriage earlier in his career that produced a son named Daniel. In the harrowing opening scene of this provocative and affecting novel, Dr. Allen is home with his family when a televised news report announces that the Democratic candidate for president has been shot at a rally, and Daniel is caught on video as the assassin.

Daniel Allen has always been a good kid—a decent student, popular—but, as a child of divorce, used to shuttling back and forth between parents, he is also something of a drifter. Which may be why, at the age of nineteen, he quietly drops out of Vassar and begins an aimless journey across the United States, during which he sheds his former skin and eventually even changes his name to Carter Allen Cash.

Told alternately from the point of view of the guilt-ridden, determined father and his meandering, ruminative son, The Good Father is a powerfully emotional page-turner that keeps one guessing until the very end. This is an absorbing and honest novel about the responsibilities—and limitations—of being a parent and our capacity to provide our children with unconditional love in the face of an unthinkable situation.

Noah Hawley is an American film and television producer (Bones), screenwriter, composer, and author. This is his fourth novel.

Remember to keep some books in mind to choose from in December. It's our "Best of 2012" month.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

May Book Choices!

It's time to vote for the May book! We'll be picking from the comedy/humorous books this month.

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman | Paperback, 329 pages

Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he'd have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day.

The reality, though, is far different. He's got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he's written a novel, but the manuscript he's slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety.

Tom's life is crushing his soul, but he's decided to do something about it. (Really.) Domestic Violets is the brilliant and beguiling story of a man finally taking control of his own happiness--even if it means making a complete idiot of himself along the way.

Domestic Violets is Norman's first novel...and it's supposed to be laugh-out-loud funny! It has a 4.00 rating on Goodreads.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler | Paperback, 244 pages

Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves has a larger-than-average body and a plus-size inferiority complex. She lives on the Web, snarfs junk food, and follows the "Fat Girl Code of Conduct." Her stuttering best friend has just moved to Walla Walla (of all places). Her new companion, Froggy Welsh the Fourth (real name), has just succeeded in getting his hand up her shirt, and she lives in fear that he’ll look underneath. Then there are the other Shreves: Mom, the successful psychologist and exercise fiend; Dad, a top executive who ogles thin women on TV; and older siblings Ana├»s and rugby god Byron, both of them slim and brilliant. Delete Virginia, and the Shreves would be a picture-perfect family. Or so she’s convinced. And then a shocking phone call changes everything.

With irreverent humor, insight, and surprising gravity, Carolyn Mackler creates an endearingly blunt heroine whose story will speak to every teen who struggles with family expectations - and serve as a welcome reminder that the most impressive achievement is to be true to yourself.

This book is written for teens, as are all of Mackler's books. She received the Michael L. Printz Honor for The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things. It has a 3.75 rating on Goodreads.

Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres | Paperback, 269 pages

"Sometimes the greatest things are the most embarrassing." Ellen Degeneres' winning, upbeat candor has made her show one of the most popular, resilient and honored daytime shows on the air. (To date, it has won no fewer than 31 Emmys.) Seriously... I'm Kidding, Degeneres' first book in eight years, brings us up to date about the life of a kindhearted woman who bowed out of American Idol because she didn't want to be mean. Lively; hilarious; often sweetly poignant.

In her own words, Ellen says, “I've experienced a whole lot the last few years and I have a lot to share ... I think you'll find I've left no stone unturned, no door unopened, no window unbroken, no rug unvacuumed, no ivories untickled. What I'm saying is, let us begin, shall we?”

Seriously...I'm Kidding has a 3.52 rating on Goodreads. Read an excerpt here.

Karen is hosting the May meeting!
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