READ: And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass + a few more

Julia Glass published her debut novel “Three Junes” in 2002 and, according to my book journal, I read it at the beginning of 2004. In the entry for it I have 4 stars (the highest possible), and I wrote, “Astounding! Why didn’t I write this? Fenno!!” Obviously, I loved it.

I read “Three Junes” over 10 years ago, but it feels like just yesterday that I was immersed in the lives of the McLeod family. Glass creates vivid, complex characters and it was hard to leave them when I finished the last page. Glass gives her readers a gift with “And the Dark Sacred Night” because she lets us in on what happened to some of the characters after “Three Junes” ended. The characters lives always go on…but most of the time us readers are left to wonder how it all really turned out.

Glass presents every day normal life with its beauty & sadness & confusion & love. She captures little nuances of the characters that make them feel like you have actually met in person. Her books usually switch around narrators which helps capture all the different viewpoints of people at different points in their lives. This narrative masterfully switches between the lives of Daphne, Kit, Jasper, Lucinda, and Fenno. The heart of the book is the story of Kit searching for his unknown father. As he searches, Glass explores what it means to make your own family and the profound impact that people who enter our lives for a very short amount of time can have.

If you haven’t read “Three Junes” by Julia Glass, read it before picking up “And the Dark Sacred Night” (not necessary, but it will be even more enjoyable that way). Together, they are perfect summer/vacation reading. Big, juicy, well-written novels that will immerse you in the tangled imperfect love that families of all kinds have.

I’ve been reading a lot the last few weeks. All the books have been good, and should be added to your list. What a luxury to do so much reading.

I devoured “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell in about 2 hours. A young adult love story about 2 teenagers that is set in 1986 when mixed tapes were the most amazing gift ever. If you’ve read the book, I know you loved Park’s Dad! Fun, fast read. I’m glad that teenagers have books like this to read.

I also just finished “Under the Wide and Starry Sky” by Nancy Horan. The book is not as good as “Loving Frank” but it is still a worthwhile read. Fanny, the wife of Robert Louis Stevenson (author of “Jekyll and Hyde” and “Treasure Island”) is the central character in this historical fiction. A rule-breaker and a fearless female who divorced her first husband and traveled all alone to Europe with 3 children to pursue art in the 1800’s. The life that she and Stevenson led was extraordinary. They traveled all over the world searching for a place that would be a good habitat for Stevenson’s consumptive lungs.

At one point Stevenson is homesick for his native Scotland, “How bitterly ironic to be surrounded by palm trees, flying foxes, sweet-smelling gardenias, red and yellow fruit doves. And what do I see at every turn? My gray-pigeoned homeland.” When I read that line I was having massive homesickness for my family. It’s never easy wanting to be in two places at once, I can’t imagine what it must have been like before airplanes, FaceTime, and texting.

Another book I just read is “The Snow Queen” by Michael Cunningham. It is hard for me to describe how the writing of Michael Cunningham touches me. I love his sentences. I love the beauty of the ugly worlds he often describes. His books are like huge poems that I want to re-read because there are so many things that I feel like I missed. He writes simple sentences like, “People are more than you think they are. And they’re less, as well. The trick lies in negotiating your way between the two.” And then writes big, huge, gorgeous run-on sentences like,

 The young couple is, it suddenly seems, what Beth came outside to see. She can’t of course know what troubles may beset them, or what troubles await, but she’s satisfied by the fleeting apparition of two young people who are doing fine, right now; who have each other to laugh with, to hold hands with; who can thoughtlessly pass between them the simplicity of youth, of love, of a night that must, for them, promise an endless strand of nights, a world that offers even more than they’d hoped for; that’s given them this snow blown street and the promise of home, soon, as if love and shelter were the simplest things in the world.

“The Snow Queen” explores the interdependency of siblings, middle-age, and losing people that we love way too soon. This is not an easy read, but I think you should still pick it up and give it a try.

Library Haul

Also, I just finished listening to “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana De Rosney. Listening to this powerful book about the Vel D’Hiv roundup of Jews in Paris coincided with a visit I took to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. We are a horrible species in so many ways.

I am listening to “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd (an Oprah pick!)- all of sudden my commute has become one of the highlights of my day. The narrators in this audio version are spectacular. I feel like I am in the deep South in the early 1800’s. Both of these audio books have made me think a lot about what I would do if my comfortable life was on the line. I hope I would be brave and do the right thing.

If you are looking for a book to read in July, maybe add “California” to your list. Here’s the first chapter. It comes out on July 8th, I’ve been looking forward to it since December.




READ: 2014 Book Preview

The other day at the San Diego Central Library I noticed a card catalog and it reminded me of the way I used to do research projects in high school and the first year or two of college. I have not opened a card catalog in almost twenty years. I loved research projects in school because they would lead to unexpected discoveries and open up unknown worlds. The first research project I remember was in fourth or fifth grade in my “Program for the Academically Talented” class (do they still have this program or is it a remnant of the 80’s?). The project involved Greek and Roman Gods, and as soon as I started learning about them I wanted to know everything. One discovery led to another, and over time the little bit that I learned led me to Homer, Sophocles, Socrates, and so much more.

200px-Gatsby_1925_jacketZelda Fitzgerald was the subject of my 9th research project and I chose her because of my obsession with “The Great Gatsby.” Researching Zelda led me to authors like Edna St. Vincent Millay (same biographer), Ernest Hemingway (Zelda could not stand him), and Sylvia Plath (she always reminded me of Zelda). Learning is a continuous, exciting cycle where little flickers of interest move us to diverse things.

Part of the fun of reading for me is deciding what to read next, I like researching upcoming books. The sources I turn to the most are IndieBound, the New York Times, and The Guardian. I also get ideas for what to read next from walking through bookstores. The books below are all going to be added to my library list in 2014.

“California” by Edan Lepucki (expected Summer 2014)

I am a little jealous of this book because it sounds like an idea I had a few months ago. Of course, I never even wrote the first sentence, and this woman wrote the entire book…The book centers on a couple in post-apocalyptic California. It sounds as though it takes place in the near future and it explores love, humanity, and resilience. Can’t wait to read it.

“The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd (out now)

Oprah brought her book club back about a year ago as Oprah 2.0. I am an Oprah junkie, and have read almost all of her book picks over the years, so I’ll be reading this one. She only picks about two books a year, the last two books, “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie” by Ayana Mathis were great reads.

“Cutting Teeth” by Julia Fiero (expected May 2014)

I found this book on Flavorwire’s 15 most anticipated books list. I am intrigued because Fiero has been compared to Meg Wolitzer, and Karen Thompson Walker (who wrote “The Age of Miracles”) wrote, “Fiero’s writing feels like real life. She captures the anxiety of our times with authority, insight, and humor.”

“The City of Mirrors” by Justin Cronin (expected Fall 2014)

If you have not read the first two books in this trilogy, “The Passage” and “The Twelve,” you still have time to get caught up before the final book comes out next fall. “The City of Mirrors” will be the end of The Passage Trilogy and I am hoping for a satisfying ending. These books are creepy and will keep you awake all night. Cronin writes incredibly well, and the world he has created in these books will always haunt me.

“Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon (expected Spring 2014)

Angela creates no-fail recipes on her blog and I know this book will be full of delicious recipes and gorgeous pictures.

“Delicious!” by Ruth Reichl  (expected Spring 2014)

Reichl is a memoirist who wrote two of the best book memoirs of all time: “Comfort Me With Apples” and “Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table.” This book will be her first work of fiction. The Amazon website describes it as a: “…dazzling fiction debut—a novel of sisters, family ties, and a young woman who must find the courage to let go of the past in order to embrace her own true gifts.” Reichl has a gift for storytelling, so I think this will be fantastic.

“And the Dark Sacred Night” by Julia Glass (expected Spring 2014)

“Three Junes” will always be one of the books on my Top Ten books of all time list. I am so excited about this book because she brings back characters from that book. Glass published her first book in her late 40’s – inspiring!

“The Museum of Extraordinary Things” by Alice Hoffman (February 2014)

Alice Hoffman. Enough said.

“The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell (Fall 2014)

If you have not read Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” you are missing out!  The website The Bookseller says the following about his upcoming novel:  “The “rich and strange” novel will follow the story of Holly Sykes, who runs away from home in 1984 and 60 years later can be found in the far west of Ireland, raising a granddaughter as the world’s climate collapses.” Mitchell tells unique, haunting stories that should not be missed.

Untitled Short Story Collection by Margaret Atwood (Fall 2014)

I will read a grocery list if Atwood writes it. Can’t wait to read these stories.