Thursday, June 25, 2009

Enter to win Julie & Julia


A Sea of Books is giving away a copy of JULIE & JULIA by Julie Powell. Copy the link to enter.

http://aseaofbooks.blogspot.com/2009/06/giveaway-julie-julia-by-julie-powell.html

Can't wait to see the movie with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Great Giveaway from bookingmama


This book looks like a fun summer read. Copy the link below to get the details to win LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN by Susan Gregg Gilmore.

http://bookingmama.blogspot.com/2009/06/guest-blogger-susan-gregg-gilmore.html

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lewis Black of Little Faith


Lewis Black, whom many people know from his 'Back in Black' segment on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, was at the new Barnes & Noble store on East 86th St. & Lexington in NYC last night promoting his book Me of Little Faith.

He drew a large crowd for the inaugural event at the new store, and he started in immediately poking fun at the sparse decor on the walls, and the wallpaper pattern, which he said looks like what you see just before you pass out. (It actually does!) Then he turned serious, describing his writing process.

Black writes in longhand on paper, believing that the process of physically writing with a pen differs from typing on a computer. He says that one thinks differently writing by hand. Then he proceeded to rant about the kids today "who type with their thumbs on Blackberrys." (I left a few descriptive words out.)

Black answered many questions from the audience, and he gave thoughtful answers. He is a graduate of Yale Drama School, which he likened to mental torture. He said that the professors tore students down to build them back up, like soldiers. He told a cautionary tale of asking a professor for a letter of recommendation. He ran into the professor a few years after he graduated from Yale, and the professor expressed surprise at the fact that Yale accepted Black into the drama school because in his recommendation he stated that Yale should not accept Black into the program. Black cautions students to ALWAYS read the letters BEFORE you send them with your application. Funny and true.

When it came time to get autographs, I told Mr. Black that I have two college ages sons who are, to my disappointment, die-hard Republicans. (If you don't know, Black is not a Republican- he spent the last eight years railing against them in his comedy act. Rent his Washington DC HBO Comedy Special if you haven't seen it- the funniest standup performance I've ever seen.) I asked him for advice, and he said not to worry, they'd grow out of it. Then I told him that they idolized Dick Cheney, and he said something very funny, but not for print here. When I introduced him to my husband and said that he was to blame for my sons's political leanings, Black burst out laughing and shook my husband's hand.

Black is very funny, intelligent man. He says that he is hopeful that he will return to Broadway sometime next year. I'll be in line for those tickets!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Jane Austen Challenge


Stephanie from The Written Word has created a cool Jane Austen Challenge- click on the image at the right.

Since I just purchased a hardcover Jane Austen collection of books at Barnes & Noble for $5 during their grand opening special at their new Upper East Side store on 86th & Lexington, this is perfect timing! For the six month challenge I will:

Read SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen
Read EMMA by Jane Austen
Watch the BBC version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (love Colin Firth!)
Watch the 2005 version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Read PRIDE, PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES by Sean Grahame-Smith
Read CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT by Laura Viera Rigler

Join in the fun with us!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

You Think You Don't Know Your Husband...


In Lisa Unger's Die For You, Isabel thought she knew her husband, until the night he didn't come home. Married to Marcus for five years, and except for one brief indiscretion by her husband, Isabel thought they were happy. After alternating between anger and panic all night, she finally gets a phone call from his cell phone- and hears a violent struggle and a man scream on the other end of the call.

A call to the police goes nowhere, as a husband who doesn't come home is not high on the priority list. Isabel goes to her husband's office, a successful high-tech game software company, to talk to his partner. The partner is evasive, angering Isabel. Before she can get any more information, the FBI raids the office. Confusion reigns, and Isabel is knocked out.

When she awakens in the hospital, she finds out that it wasn't the FBI, and several people were killed, including her husband's partner. Her apartment has been trashed, and all of the money she and Marcus had in the bank is gone. Isabel discovers that her husband conned her brother-in-law Erik out of his life savings as well.

Police Detective Grady Crowe is wary of Isabel's claims of ignorance of her husband's activities. More bad news arrives when it is discovered that her husband is not the real Marcus Raine- that man was murdered years ago, and it appears that her husband assumed his identity. Did he also murder the real Marcus Raine?

Isabel is determined to discover the truth about her husband. Crowe warns her against that, particularly when more people show up dead, and Isabel seems to be the one closest to the dead bodies upon discovery. Is she a victim or a murderer?

Unger writes a fast-paced thriller, and she uses the setting of New York City to good advantage. Anyone familiar with the city will recognize the spot in Central Park where a confrontation takes place, and the Upper West Side area where Isabel lives. A journey to Prague brings that city to life as well.

Some thrillers/mysteries sacrifice character for action, but Unger's characters are fully drawn. The family dynamic between Isabel and her sister Linda, Erik and their kids is realistic and interesting. Erik and Linda's relationship is loving, even though both make big mistakes that threaten that relationship. Even Detective Crowe and his partner have a good chemistry.

One thing bugged me though. Isabel's actions frequently put herself in danger, but also endanger her family. Isabel's quest to find out the truth about her husband caused her family great pain, and I couldn't understand that. Was her need to personally discover the truth about her husband worth the agony she put her family through?

Isabel also knew nothing about her and her husband's finances. She signed papers he put in front of her, and agreed to use her name on all the paperwork for his company. Could she be that naive, particularly since her father left her mother, sister and her broke when he killed himself. Yet her sister makes a similar mistake. Perhaps this is a cautionary reminder to the reader to always pay attention to your family finances.

I didn't understand Isabel, but maybe that is the point of the story. Maybe we never really know anybody, even the person sleeping next to you for five years. I give Die For You three and half stars because Unger kept me turning the pages when I should have been sleeping.

A Moving Family Tale


Alice Hoffman is an author known for her novels filled with magical touches. Her latest, The Story Sisters, continues that, when a magical world created by three sisters collides with the reality of the world in which we all exist.

Elizabeth, called Elv, Meg and Claire Story live with their mother in a small town on Long Island. Their parents are in the middle of a bad divorce, and it has affected the girls deeply. When they were young children, Elv (whose nickname connotes the fairy-like elves) created a fairy tale world, Arnelle, which had its own language. It slightly concerned their mother Annie when they would continue to speak this language, even as they grew out of childhood. Annie's mother Natalia warns her that this behavior could isolate the girls from the real world.

This fantasy world contrasts with the physical world in which they live. Annie has a large garden, and grows heirloom tomatoes. The girls are knowledgeable in all areas tomato. They love animals: Elv likes dogs, Claire rides horses. Elv is artistic, attracted to painting and color. Meg is a voracious reader, and a very good student. They sleep in the same bedroom, and are each other's best friends.

The horrors of the real world intrude on the girls of Arnelle when a bad man hurts Elv, who saves the younger Claire from his clutches. They never tell anyone about "the day the bad thing happened", not even Meg. This bad thing, and her reluctance to tell her mother, causes Elv to act out. Annie is struggling too, "she felt as if everything she did was in halves: half a mother, half a teacher, half a woman". In that one sentence, Hoffman articulates the feelings of so many women.

Elv begins to believe "that evil repelled evil, while good collected it", and she is determined to become evil in order to expel it from her life. She uses drugs, becomes promiscuous, steals- everything a young woman with low self esteem does to dull her pain. Meg is angered by her sister's behavior, but Claire vows to remain loyal to Elv. Elv's behavior breaks the bonds of sisterhood she so tenderly nurtured.

Hoffman uses imagery and metaphors so beautifully. When Elv saves a kitten thrown into a river, she tells Claire that she is haunted because she couldn't save a second kitten thrown in. Claire reminds her that it is important that she saved one, but Elv can't get over that she couldn't save the other, echoing the fact that she saved Claire once, but was unable to save herself.

The author's writing hits home with the reader, as when following a death, Annie's cousin says,
"Call me the minute you need something," she told Annie and Claire, but neither of them could think of a single thing they might need that anyone could possibly give them.
Everyone who has lost someone knows that exact feeling.

This is a moving, haunting novel that will make you cry. There is so much sadness, so many tragic things that happen, and we all know people about whom we say, "haven't they suffered enough?" About a good man who becomes involved with the Story family, Hoffman writes
He stayed in the kitchen with the dog for a while. He covered his face and wept. When he was done, he patted Shiloh's head. This wasn't his house or his family or his dog, but it was his sorrow.


Hoffman broke my heart with this beautiful story of how secrets can destroy, but ultimately about the power of love to redeem. I became deeply invested in her characters, and will not be able to get them out of my thoughts. It is so powerful, so moving, it is the best of what fiction attempts to be.

Rating 5 of 5 stars

Friday, June 19, 2009

A true story of humanity during World War II


Don't let the title fool you; It Happened in Italy is not a chick-lit book. The subtitle, Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust, gives the reader a better idea of the substance of this non-fiction book.

Told in simple style by author Elizabeth Bettina, it recounts her discovery of how Jewish people fled to Italy from Germany to escape the Nazi regime, and were hidden by many courageous Italians, one of whom, Giovanni Palatucci, was sent to a German camp and killed for his participation.

Bettina fits the description, coined by Malcolm Gladwell, of a "connector"; a person who connects other people together. In this case, she connects Jewish survivors with the Italian people who saved them and their families, and with the Vatican. Her persistence that this unknown story must be told forms the basis for this intriguing book.

She uses many photos and documents kept by survivors and the Italians and sprinkles them in the text where relevant. I liked this format as it allows the reader to see immediately what she is referring to, rather than placed in the middle of the book where they are often found.

The stories of the survivors and their benefactors are interesting, a tale of true humanity during an inhumane period of history. The contrast between how the Jews in Italy were treated, with dignity and respect, and those Jews who were sent to death camps in Germany, is startling. This is an important story; thank goodness Elizabeth Bettina told it.

Rating 3.5 of 5 stars

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Enter to win JULIE & JULIA from Readaholic


You can win a copy of JULIE & JULIA by Julie Powell, courtesy of Readaholic. Enter here:
http://bridget3420.blogspot.com/2009/06/giveaway-julie-and-julia-by-julie.html

Book Review- PAUL NEWMAN, A LIFE


Paul Newman is one of our true movie stars, back when that phrase really meant something. His death last year reminded us what a unique individual he was- an actor, movie star, race car driver, husband, father, grandfather, businessman, humanitarian.

Shawn Levy has written a new biography, titled Paul Newman- A Life. And it was quite a life he lived. I vividly remember my mother taking me to see The Sting, starring Newman and Robert Redford. It was one of the first grown-up movies I saw, and I felt very sophisticated. Redford was gorgeous, but it was Newman who charmed me. There seemed something mischievous behind those blue eyes and that knowing smile.

Levy does a great job chronicling Newman's early years, and he footnotes and endnotes extensively, not something you normally see in a biography of a movie star. He quotes from reviews of Newman's plays and movies, and that helps put Newman's work in context of the times.

The author delves into Newman's youth and his college days at Kenyon College, where Newman realized he had the desire to act. Newman was a bit of a rascal who loved to party and was not opposed to imbibing in beer, something that he continued to do throughout his life. Levy states that as an adult Newman would often drink a case of beer a day. (Budweiser sent Newman ten cases of beer a week as payment for advertising for them, and they didn't go to waste.)

Levy spoke with several people who went to school with Newman, and their memories of a young Newman are insightful. Newman loved to rehearse, to dig deeply into his character and their motivations, and as this practice grew with his career, it was not always appreciated by his costars or directors.

He married young and had two children with his first wife, but their marriage didn't last. Levy points out the irony of a man who was well known for having one of the most successful, long-lived marriages in Hollywood, actually falling in love with his second wife, actress Joanne Woodward, while he was still married to wife number one.

I did not know that Newman also had an affair (while married to Joanne) with a reporter he met while filming Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It lasted for over a year, and nearly ruined his second marriage, but after the affair ended, he and Joanne worked it out. Again, they were an example for people that no marriage is perfect, but it takes work, love, patience and forgiveness to make it last.

Newman had such a long career, Levy does his best to get it all in this book without making it 1000 pages, which it easily could have been. The one thing that gets short shrift is Newman's role as a father. It is touched on, but it would have been interesting to know more about how he parented from his children. They seem like people who like their privacy, and after the death of Newman's son Scott from a drug overdose, and the publicity surrounding it, I imagine they were leery of the press.

Newman is quoted as saying that "What I would really like to put on my tombstone is that I was part of my time". Levy makes the correct statement that he was, and that is one thing that shines through in this fascinating biography. Newman really was a man made in his time, an embodiment of a true American individual.

Rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Norman Conquests rules again


I saw a second play of the trilogy, The Norman Conquests, Table Manners, and it was even better than the first one, if that is possible.

The same six characters, Annie, her nerdy brother Reg, his uptight wife Sarah, sarcastic, cold sister Ruth, her uncontrollable husband Norman and Annie's awkward suitor Tom are all back. The action takes place over a weekend in July 1974, and this play is set in the dining room.

There is an advantage to having already seen one play- I knew all of the characters, and that made this play even funnier and more poignant because of that familiarity. But again, you will not be lost just seeing only one of the trilogy. That is the genius of Alan Ayckbourn's writing.

The characters of Sarah, Ruth and Tom get more time in this play, and that is a good thing. I had a deeper understanding of them, Sarah particularly. The actors in the ensemble make you believe they are this dysfunctional family.

The dinner scene was amazing; I have never heard an audience laugh that hard or long at any other play I have seen. Even the actors seemed a little giddy. I think everyone at that show could relate to the family dinner that starts with good intentions, only to devolve into insanity, dredging up the muck as only a family can do.

This play showed the loneliness and sadness of these people, who just want to make a human connection, and be loved. Ayckbourn and the actors do this with a humor and poignancy that is remarkable. If you can only see one Broadway show, you owe it to yourself to make it one of the Norman Conquest trilogy, winner of the 2009 Tony Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play.

And Norman, to quote Bill Murray from Stripes "You are a madman- I wanna party with you!"

The tribe from HAIR



Saw the marvelous tribe from Broadway's revival of Hair yesterday at Sirius XM Radio's Live on Broadway at the Times Square Information Center. They had a huge crowd and it was so much fun. Gavin Creel is so adorable and talented; he has a real star quality and an infectious smile. He sang a song and jumped on the chair of young girl who, if her photos come out, has some great memories to share!

Original cast member Ben Vereen surprised the tribe by showing up and leading the tribe and the crowd in a joyful rendition of Let the Sunshine In. It was great- it definitely makes one want to see the incredible show.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Celebrity Sighting of the Day!


While at an off-Broadway show, Everyday Rapture, starring the very talented and funny Sherie Rene Scott, I saw actress Lois Smith in the audience. If anyone is a fan of HBO's True Blood you'll know her as Sookie's Grandma Adele. She was also in Fried Green Tomatoes and How to Make an American Quilt, and has been on TV in everything from soap operas (All My Children, One Life to Live) to guest spots on Grey's Anatomy and ER and she's fabulous!

Celebrity sighting of the day!


Central Park is a great place to see celebrities just hanging out, and while there for a leisurely stroll on Sunday, my husband and I heard a familiar voice. It was Hamish Linklater, Matthew from THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE on CBS. He is in Shakespeare in the Park's production of Twelfth Night, and was probably taking a break from rehearsal.

Win THE MATING RITUALS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WASP


You can win a great new book here, courtesy of The Burton Review. Marie asks a terrific question of the author too.

http://burtonreview.blogspot.com/2009/05/book-reviewmating-rituals-of-north.html

Monday, June 8, 2009

THE NORMAN CONQUESTS all!


If you saw the Tony Awards on Sunday, you may have seen the cast of The Norman Conquests on the stage as they won Best Revival of a Play.

I had the pleasure of seeing one of the plays in the trilogy, Round and Round the Garden last week. The other two plays are Table Manners and Living Together. The plays can be seen separately, they run on consecutive nights, or you can see them all on Saturday.

The genius of the plays is that as the characters exit one play, they enter into the next. So if Norman leaves the garden, he enters into the living room and you see what happens there in the next play, Living Together . It may sound confusing, but it is not. Only seeing one does not confuse the theatergoer at all.

The play works not only because the genius of playwright Alan Ayckbourn, but thanks to an amazing cast. Norman, played brilliantly by Stephen Mangan, is an assistant librarian married to one sister, Ruth, but pursuing an affair with her sister, Annie. Annie and Ruth's brother, Reg, and his uptight wife Sarah, have reluctantly come home to care for their ailing mother while Annie goes away for a secret weekend rendezvous with Norman. Meanwhile, Annie is being pursued, somewhat slowly, by veterinarian Tom.

Mangan plays Norman like a scruffy little puppy. He's adorable, but has little impulse control. He lives in the here and now, and loves to shake things up. His pursuit of Annie, and then the rigid Sarah, is delightful. You want to grab a rolled up newspaper, pop him on the nose and say, "Bad boy!" Then he bats his puppy dog eyes at you, and you forgive him.

Mangan was nominated for a Tony Award, as was Paul Ritter, who plays brother Reg. He too plays his role of the boring, slightly annoying and clueless man to perfection. Ben Miles is Tom the vet who just can't get up the courage to tell Annie how he feels, then misunderstands Ruth's attempt to explain the situation swirling around them.

Jessica Hynes was also nominated for a Tony for her as the long suffering, lonely Annie. Annie is longing for attention that Norman is willing to give her, but struggling with her feelings for Tom. Amanda Root, also nominated for a Tony, plays the uptight Sarah who knows everything going on, but still is attracted to the carefree Norman. Amelia Bullmore, as Norman's wife Ruth, is genius in her scene with Tom as she tries to explain what is happening with Annie and Norman.

The cast won a special ensemble award from The Drama Desk Awards, and they are hands down the best cast on Broadway right now. They work together as a well-oiled comedy machine. The show is full of belly laughs that come fast and furious. It's a terrific show to see if you need a laugh, and I'm looking forward to seeing the other two plays in the trilogy. I keep wondering what the heck happened when they left the garden!

Friday, June 5, 2009

BEA- Part #4- The big draws


BEA was an interesting experience for me, as it was my first one. I was checking out who were the big draws, and I came to a few conclusions.

Celebrities, not necessarily authors, were popular. One of the first signings I attended was early Friday morning, and it was for The View co-host Sherri Shepherd, whose book Permission Slips publishes in October. She had a long line, but she took time to chat with everyone and take photos. (see above)

Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson had a very long line that kept snaking around for the signing of his book, American on Purpose. There was one man trying to trade three tickets to the Kathie Lee Gifford signing for one Craig Ferguson ticket, but he didn't appear to have any luck. Ferguson was the moderator at a BEA breakfast, so I had the chance to hear him speak. I can tell you he is as funny at 8am as he is at 12:30am, and he really woke up the crowd.

Julie Andrews was very popular, with a long line that they had to move when they ran out of time. I saw Miss Andrews everywhere, at the Borders booth being interviewed, at C-SPAN booth being interviewed. She is so lovely, and she and her beautiful daughter have written many children's books, so she really is an author and celebrity.

Big selling authors were big draws The line for James Patterson, probably the biggest selling author out there now, was huge. He signed in two different places, and both had huge lines. Candice Bushnell, the Sex and the City author had a long line for a book signing for a book that came out months ago.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney was so popular, they ran out of books and he signed book plates. Ditto the Top Chef chefs; they signed recipe cards when they ran out of books.

Literary authors were popular too It was good to see that more literary authors, like Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jonathan Lethem also had many, many people who wanted their autographs.

The panel discussions had many fans The one on Book Reviews in 2010, sponsored by the National Book Critics Circle, was standing room only. The panel had book reviewers for print publications, as well as a representative from GoodReads.com, discussing where book reviews are headed. It was a lively discussion.

Book bloggers took center stage at the first ever Book Bloggers:The New Buzz Builders panel, moderated by Jennifer Hart, who blogs about books for Harper Collins Publishers at bookclubgirl.com. Even though this panel was not publicized as much as the other panels, the room was overflowing. There were six other popular bloggers, BethFishReads, The Written Word, Booking Mama, My Friend Amy, Maw Books, and She Is Too Fond of Books, on the panel, and the discussion was insightful, informative and interesting. There were lots of great questions, and it probably could have gone on for much longer if time allowed. The bloggers were mobbed like rock stars at the end of the panel. I think they were surprised by their popularity!

BEA-Part #3- Books with Buzz

There were so many books at BEA that have good buzz; books everyone is talking about that will be out soon. These are the ones I was able to get, and you'll hear more from me as I read them.

A perfect book for Father's Day is Michael Lewis' Home Game. Lewis wrote the baseball book, Moneyball, about how the Oakland A's revolutionized the way the front office of a major league baseball team built their team. Home Game is a funny, touching look at modern day fatherhood from his personal perspective. I saw him on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and he was hysterical. Give it to your favorite new dad.

Crazy for the Storm, by Norman Ollestad, is a memoir about an eleven-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed his father. There is a lot in here about his relationship with his dad, so it's also a good choice for Father's Day. Everyone is talking about this one, and you'll be sure to hear more about it soon.

There's a new biography coming out in October, How to Be a Movie Star- Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood, by William Mann. His previous books include a well reviewed biography of Katherine Hepburn. The cover of this book has a gorgeous photo of a stunning young Elizabeth Taylor.

Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder's newest book is Strength in What Remains, the true story of young boy who escapes from war-torn Africa and ends up living in Central Park in New York City. It publishes in August. Kidder spoke at a breakfast at BEA, and this one sounds as great as his book on Paul Farmer.

Jeannette Walls, who wrote the terrific memoir, The Glass Castle, is back with a true-life novel, Half Broke Horses, about her grandmother's life. It's drawn comparisons to Out of Africa and West with the Night. Walls also spoke at the breakfast, and said that she wrote this book because people had asked her so many questions about her mother's life. As she dug deeper into her mother's life, her grandmother's story just became so strong, she knew she had to write it.

Fiction books that are causing a buzz include Pete Dexter's new novel Spooner, about a man and his stepson, out in September.

Simon and Schuster is high on Nicholas Baker's newest literary fiction, The Anthologist, and people were scooping that one up quickly.

Joshua Ferris' debut novel And Then We Came to the End won heaps of praise, and everyone is looking forward to his next effort, The Unnamed, due in January 2010.

Lorrie Moore has a story set just after 9/11, The Gate at the Stairs, and she spoke at a luncheon and was deadpan funny. This novel is a serious one, and many people are very excited about this new one from the multi-award winning author, out in September.

Two books I have loved forever are Gone With the Wind and The Thorn Birds, and Leila Meacham's Roses, is billed as a successor to those. It's a multi-generational saga set in east Texas, and it's due in January 2010.

BEA- Part 2- So many authors, so little time


There were several authors at BEA who had books I have wanting to read, and I was lucky enough to meet the authors and get a copy of their book.

Kelly Corrigan is the author of The Middle Place, a memoir about growing up the middle child in her family, and the year she and her dad were both diagnosed with cancer. I have heard so much great buzz about this book, I was lucky to be able to meet her and her father. (photo above). Her book clearly touched many lives, as there were many people in line to meet her, and they all had wonderful stories about how her book affected them.

Jonathan Miles wrote a novel, Dear American Airlines, about a man who was on the way to his estranged daughter's wedding when he got caught in the hell that can be the airport experience (anyone who has had a flight delayed forever knows this). This has been on my radar for awhile, so I was pleased to get a signed copy.

Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife has been in my sights, and I got to meet the very unassuming man who wrote this spooky, mysterious book. One librarian gushed about how great this book is, and it is on the very top of my To Be Read pile.

Nevada Barr is a mystery writer, and while I don't read a lot of mysteries, I have run across her books for years, and was able to meet her and get a signed copy of 13 1/2. I'm looking forward to diving in. She's a very classy lady.

Speaking of mysteries, Linwood Barclay, who wrote the award-winning chilling mystery, No Time for Goodbye, is back with Fear the Worst, which should appeal to Harlan Coben fans.

Dorothea Benton Frank was there signing Return to Sullivans Island, continuing the popular saga of the Hayes and Hamilton families. She looked lovely and was very sweet.

Book Expo of America-Part 1


Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Book Expo of America (BEA) at the Javits Center. I had been looking forward to it for so long, and it definitely lived up to expectations.

There were so many chances to meet great authors who have books coming out soon. I was first in line to meet Adrian Trigiani, who wrote the Big Stone Gap series I adore, and more recently Very Valentine, which I read and reviewed here recently. She was just as terrific as I hoped she'd be. She's just like your best friend! Several people I spoke with said that they had met her, and she is one of their favorite authors to talk to. Her new book is a YA title, Viola in Reel Life, about a Brooklyn girl who goes to boarding school in Indiana. If you have a middle-school girl to give this to, be sure to pick it up. (Or read yourself- I plan on doing just that!)

I was also able to meet Michael Connelly, one of the best literary crime fiction writers around. He writes the popular Harry Bosch series, and the newest is The Scarecrow, and I was so thrilled to be able to pick up a signed ARC of the book (he had such a long line of people wanting to meet him). It's just been released, and it's sure to hit the bestseller list right away.

Neil Gaiman, author of The Graveyard Book signed 170 copies of his books in one hour, and I was able to score one for a young man who is a big fan. Gaiman was very gracious, and he is as funny as his tweets on Twitter are!

Mary Karr, who wrote the incredible memoir The Liar's Club was signing copies of the third in her memoir trilogy, Lit. She was funny too. She told me this book is about "getting drunk and getting sober". It's definitely on the top of my To Be Read pile (how can I resist with that description?). We also chatted about Syracuse, as she is a professor at SU.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Enter to win THE CHOSEN ONE


This is a YA book, but it looks like a fantastic read for adults too. Heylady has a great review of it, and an opportunity to win it here.

http://heylady.net/2009/06/02/review-giveaway-the-chosen-one-by-carol-lynch-williams/

Good luck!

Monday, June 1, 2009

All hail the King, Geoffrey Rush!


Australian actor Geoffrey Rush brings his considerable physical talents to the revival of Eugene Ionescos' Exit the King, finishing up a limited run on Broadway.

The show has some parallels to recent events. King Berenger's kingdom is crumbling. Too many ill-conceived wars, people fleeing the country, and it appears that the country is actually falling into the ocean.

To top it all off, King Berenger is dying. His first wife, Queen Marguerite, played by the gorgeous Susan Sarandon in her Broadway debut, takes control organizing the last moments of the King.

His much younger, prettier, second wife, Queen Marie, is played by the radiant Lauren Ambrose. She makes the audience believe that she really loves the King for the man he is, not just for what he can give her. This is the second time I have seen Ambrose on the stage, the first time was in her role as Ophelia in Hamlet in Shakespeare in the Park last summer. She is one of our best young actresses, and I look forward to seeing her work for a long time to come.

Andrea Martin, nominated for a Tony for her role, plays the role of Juliette, the nurse/housemaid/cook. She is incredibly funny, as she always is, and her big scene with Rush as she explains her difficult life, is wonderful.

Brian Hutchison hilariously plays the role of the Guard as a surfer dude, as if he were Spicolli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Just watching his facial reactions in the background is priceless. William Sandler ably rounds out the cast as The Doctor, who sides with Marguerite in her attempts to control the King.

Geoffrey King is nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of the King, and he should win based on the one scene where he does a sort of combination march/dance. He states in an interview with Playbill that he had trained in mime and pantomine, and his training is put to good use in this brilliant scene.

Exit the King is closing on June 14th, so you need to hurry if you want to see it. It has many huge laughs, but the last scene with Sarandon's monologue, coaxing the King towards death, is thought-provoking.

Jane Fonda's triumphant return to Broadway


It's been 46 years since Jane Fonda appeared on Broadway, but you wouldn't know it from her bravura, Tony-nominated performance in 33 Varations , written by Moises Kaufman.

She portrays Dr. Katherine Brandt, a woman with a doctorate in music, who has Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease is slowly robbing her of her health, and before she is unable to travel, she plans to go to Bonn, Germany, to study Beethoven's 33 Variations on Anton Diabelli's waltz.

She has a strained relationship with her daughter, portrayed by Samantha Mathis. I had a difficult time with her role. I'm not sure if it was the role that I didn't enjoy, or Mathis' portrayal. Colin Hanks plays a nurse who falls in love with the daughter, and travels with her to stay with Katherine in Bonn.

Hanks is very good in his role, and as I overheard one woman sitting behind me remark, "he's adorable!", a statement with which I would agree.

Katherine's study is juxtaposed with Beethoven, his assistant Anton Schindler, and Diabelli. Zach Grenier is also nominated for his role as Beethoven, and he plays the character with great relish and bombast. I also liked Erik Steele in the assistant's role.

Diane Walsh is at the piano during the show, playing Beethoven's 33 Variations, and adding greatly to the show.

But it is Jane Fonda who carries the day. This is not the Jane Fonda from her recent work in awful movies like Georgia Rule and Monster-in-Law; this is the Jane Fonda from Klute and Coming Home, commanding the stage, yet also blending well with her costars.

The show has closed in its limited run, but Fonda has to be a front-runner for this Sunday's Tony Awards.

Is there anyone better suited to Broadway than David Hyde Pierce?


If there is, I don't know who it is. He is so perfect in this role, its hard to believe it wasn't written for him. The show, Accent on Youth, is a bit dated, being a revival of a 1934 show, but it still has some relevant things to say about love and age.

David Hyde Pierce perfectly plays the workaholic playwright who doesn't quite trust love that is right in front of him in the form of his dedicated, but very young, secretary. I sat in the second row, and could see up close the painful look in his eyes as he believes his love is passing him by. So touching!

Charles Kimbrough is also marvelous as Flogdell the butler, bringing a bit of his famous Jim Dial character from Murphy Brown to the role. You simply can't go wrong with a David Hyde Pierce show on Broadway.