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Hot Off the Press: Fall 2014
Aug23

Hot Off the Press: Fall 2014

It’s time to kick off another “Hot Off the Press” class!  Starting in September, I’ll be holding the regular evening session in Elkins Park on Wednesdays from 7pm to 8:30pm. I will also be adding a second session: same class, different time and location. The alternative date is Tuesday morning from 9:30 to 11 at Winnie’s LeBus in Manayunk, where we’ll talk books and eat breakfast together (the cost of breakfast is not included in the cost of the class). For those who are new to the class, in this monthly book discussion class, participants read works of new fiction just as they are being published. Class discussions include analysis of the book as well as background information about the author and the book’s path to publication. We talk serious book talk, but have a lot of laughs too! Below you will find dates, books, and other details about the new class. *Ready to register already? Go here: https://squareup.com/market/open-book/hot-off-the-press-fall-class Hot Off the Press Class #1 Tuesday, September 16th, 9:30-11am – Manayunk @ Winnie’s LeBus http://www.lebusmanayunk.com/ Wednesday, September 17th, 7-8:30pm – Elkins Park (Specific location details to be provided – we have a great new space this time!) The Undertaking by Audrey Magee This is one of those books that the publisher sent to me and I knew nothing about—never heard of the author, wasn’t really captivated by the plot description. But one day I picked it up and started to read. “Hmmm… this is really interesting,” I thought, and kept reading. I wasn’t too far into the book before I knew it was a book I wanted to share with you. What’s it about, you say? Oh, World War II, German soldier, marriage of convenience. It’s a fascinating and original look at the toll war takes on people’s lives. Publication Date: 8/19 BUY THE BOOK: I will have all the class books available for sale in my Open Book Bookstore at a 10% discount for class members (plus tax). I will receive copies of The Undertaking early next week. Either email me that you would like the book or click here to purchase it: https://squareup.com/market/open-book/undertaking-the [Note: Books for the other classes will be available, also at a discount, as they are published.] Class #2 Tuesday, October 7th, 9:30-11am – Manayunk @ Winnie’s LeBus Wednesday, October 8th 17th, 7-8:30pm– Elkins Park Neverhome by Laird Hunt I was captivated by the voice in this powerful story of a woman who goes off to fight in the Civil War instead of her husband, posing as a man and enduring what her fellow soldiers endure. Inspired by real-life accounts of women who fought...

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The Two Hotel Francforts by David Leavitt
Jul21

The Two Hotel Francforts by David Leavitt

Dear Caryl, You mentioned when I saw you Friday night that someone had recommended you read The Two Hotel Francforts by David Leavitt. That was such a funny coincidence because I was in the middle of reading it myself! I finished the book this weekend, and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you. I like David Leavitt. I read his last book, The Indian Clerk, and thought it was interesting and pretty good, and I also read The Lost Language of Cranes, which is his most highly-regarded book, although I must confess I don’t remember much of it. He always seemed to me like a writer who deserved more attention. This new novel has been getting a lot of positive attention, and I was looking forward to reading it. The book tells the story of two couples, Pete & Julia and Edward & Iris, who meet in Lisbon in 1940. American expatriates, they have had harrowing escapes from the encroaching Nazis, and have made their way to Lisbon to await passage back to the US on the ship Manhattan. The new acquaintances strike up a friendship, which evolves quickly into flirtation and then, unsurprisingly, into an affair. What is surprising is the partners who embark on the affair: Pete and Edward. It was this unexpected twist that made the novel sound interesting to me in the first place. After their passion is teased and then consumed, the relationship develops into something more predictable and less pleasant, more tedious, a kind of “you don’t love me like you used to” sort of thing. Iris then comes to see Pete for a “talk,” and explains the workings of her extremely unconventional relationship with Edward. Something about the tone, the setting, the story of the seemingly breezy and worldly couple who mask deep troubles, made me feel like the author was trying to do Fitzgerald and/or Hemingway in a way that felt derivative, not inspired or laudatory. It’s one of those books where the narrator (Pete) tells you at the beginning what’s going to happen at the end and, instead of following his story with interest in the process of how the characters got from A to B, I instead found myself skimming pages in a rush to just get it over with already.  Unfortunately, I wanted to like this book much more than I did. In the end, Caryl, I wouldn’t really recommend it for you, but I’ll be happy to recommend some other good summer reading! Start with The Transcriptionist, a debut novel by Amy Rowland. See here for more info: https://lynnrosen.com/a-great-new-book-for-your-summer-reading-list/ Best,...

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Is It Real Or Is It…?
Jul16

Is It Real Or Is It…?

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro This is a popular book; I’ve seen it around a lot and heard it mentioned in a positive context. The topic interested me. I think what really grabbed me is the cover art. Always meant to read it. Finally did. What I liked about the book: A glimpse into a new (for me) milieu: the Boston art world and the world of art in general. Lots of interesting details about painting techniques. What I didn’t like: Lots of detail about painting technique. I get that to really understand the plot the reader needed a more than superficial understanding of the artist’s technique, but at times it read like a lesson, not a novel. Liked: The main character, blacklisted but extremely talented (and sexy of course) artist Claire Roth. Didn’t like: Claire’s character could have used more emotional depth and complexity. Didn’t like: A narrative style that sometimes seemed confused about whether it was telling the story in past or present tense, and a voice that was often dry, dispassionate and distant. Didn’t like: A story that, near the end, suddenly veered from something more artsy and somewhat literary into a fast-paced police thriller complete with a deceptively friendly FBI guy. Liked: The premise (a stolen Degas; a forged Degas; other things about Degas I won’t give away), the misunderstood, maligned, and yet talented and tenacious protagonist, the inclusion of some Impressionist history, and the back story (real and imagined) of museum creator Isabella Stewart Gardner. This is the point at which I should be assigning a number of stars and thumbs up or down, but I’ll leave it at this and let you decide if this a book you wish to read. Let me...

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Good line!
Jul02

Good line!

I’m reading a YA (young adult) book called The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone. I found out about it when the author was interviewed on NPR. It’s based on the Thorne Rooms, which are a series of miniature rooms created in the 1930s and now housed at the Art Institute of Chicago. The premise is that the kids in the book become miniature and can go in the rooms and have adventures.I bring it up today because I just read a quote I really liked and want to share with you. One of the main characters, a girl named Ruthie, is talking with her father about her friend Jack’s mother, Lydia. Lydia is an artist and Lydia and Jack live in a really cool loft. Lydia is described as being quirky and outgoing. She relates to people easily and in a friendly way, and she’s a great cook. Here’s Ruthie, speaking about her father: “He had often commented that artists like her [Lydia] create their lives rather than letting other people set the rules. Ruthie was beginning to understand what he meant by that: if you want something badly enough, you have to make it happen.” Inspiring...

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A great new book for your summer reading list!
Jul01

A great new book for your summer reading list!

July always feels to me like the real beginning of summer. And of course you know what summer means to me: summer reading! I just read a terrific new novel I want to share with you. In fact, I like it so well I’ve arranged to have it available to you at a special discount, so you can add it to your summer reading list! The Transcriptionist is Amy Rowland’s debut novel. Rowland is a book review editor at The New York Times. Prior to that, she worked for many years as a transcriptionist for Times, typing up interviews and reporters’ stories. The book centers on Lena, who spends her days in a lonely office at a major New York newspaper called The Record, with the words of others flowing into her ears and out of her fingertips. Lena is beginning to have the sense that, by channeling the words and thoughts of others for so long, she is beginning to lose her own. She rarely talks to other people and, when she does, she is prone to quoting dead authors. What sets off the action of the novel is an article in The Record about a suicide in which a blind woman jumps the fence of the lion’s area at the Bronx Zoo, swims the moat, and is devoured by a lion. Lena realizes that, days before this incident, she had an encounter with this very woman on a city bus. As we follow Lena’s search to learn more about this unknown woman, we learn about Lena’s background and we are also given an inside glimpse into the workings of a beleaguered institution: the major city paper. I greatly enjoyed reading this quirky, thoughtful, unusual and well-written book. I highly recommend you give it a try! You can place an order for a copy with a special one-time only Open Book 25% discount: https://squareup.com/market/open-book/transcriptionist-the Happy...

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