Tag Archives: Books

Book Review: At Random by Lee Zacharias

I just finished Lee Zacharias’ amazing novel “At Random”. Once I started the book, I could not put it down.

“At Random” is the work of a mature, masterful, very brave writer in her prime.

In an era when most books are either plot driven or character driven, it is increasingly rare to find a book that is both. The extremely well-developed characters haunt you. The plot engages you and pulls you deeper and deeper into the book and its characters until you can’t wait to see what is going to happen to these complex, flawed people. You really care how they are going to react to and survive the impacts of “random” events on their lives.

So much is going on in this book on so many levels, but it is so masterfully told you never feel overwhelmed. There is a brilliantly, subtly drawn portrait of a marriage under stress. There is an evocative illustration of how tenuous the hold can be on middle class American lifestyles. The book forcefully illustrates how unexpected events can expose the frailty and fluidity of class distinctions. The book masterfully shows how these unexpected events can force us out of our bubbles and force us to reexamine our lives when we least expect or want to do so. The book brilliantly shows how American institutions, laws and the system can so easily fail at so many critical points and how these failures have real impacts on real people. There are contrasts and comparisons between these middle class Americans and the poor Montagnard refugees and how broken promises and societal expectations impact each group. There is biting, subversive study of how casual friendships fail under stress and how people try to find real connections to each other. There is a trough line theme of growing awareness of how fragile our hold is on so many aspects of our lives.

This is not a comfortable book, but it is a brave, intriguing, and haunting book. It is technically flawless, beautifully written, brilliantly plotted and emotionally engaging- sometimes to the point of discomfort. But, then, that’s what makes it a masterfully executed book of literary fiction and not your average cozy or escapist plot driven entertainment.

Please take the time to read this book. I promise, you will not regret it.

via At Random: Lee Zacharias: Amazon.com: Kindle Store.

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Rielle Hunter, Mistress of John Edwards, Doesn’t Sell

Books, that is….

Her tell-all about her relationship with John Edwards is officially a flop-selling only about 6000 books…

I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read this trash and I’m glad to see my instincts were correct….

There is some hope that the American Public still has a minimal level of standards remaining….

The only shock here is that you can make the NY Times Best Seller list by only selling 6000 books….

Now if Rielle and John will just shut up and go away….

From the NY Post, Page Six:

Rielle Hunter has gone quiet after less than hoped-for sales of her memoir — she’s scheduled no additional tour dates to promote her tell-all about her relationship with John Edwards, “What Really Happened.” After a serious media blitz, which included interviews with ABC’s Chris Cuomo and appearances on “The View” and “Piers Morgan Tonight,” Hunter, the mother of Edwards’ daughter, Quinn, has sold 6,000 copies of her story, Bookscan told Page Six — enough to crack the New York Times best-seller list but “not big enough to make the major New York houses sorry” for not choosing it, Publishers Weekly said. A rep for Hunter told us: “Rielle’s book tour has not been canceled. She completed her scheduled media appearances, and there are still requests that she’s considering.” But the rep added that no other tour appearances are currently planned. Hunter reportedly got a small advance from boutique publisher BenBella Books because larger publishers feared women would not buy it.

via Rielle Hunter finally silenced as her book flops – NYPOST.com.

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Why France is Shunning the E-book

I love France…

But I struggle with this…

I also love my Amazon Kindle…

However, part of my issue with the Kindle is the pricing.  It makes no sense to pay almost the same price for an electronic version of a Best Seller when the Publisher doesn’t have the costs associated with printing and sending a Hard back to a reader.  Yet, the cost is frequently almost the same….and the publishers set the prices in the U.S.

Capitalism run amok!  The Corporations do own all the information distribution channels in the US…..

I love the French people’s loyalty to the printed book, but it’s just not practical.  I love the portability and convenience of my Kindle…

And, let’s be honest, these are the people who developed the Maginot Line….

And thought it would work…

I miss local bookstores, but….

Let’s be real….

From the Guardian (UK):

In contrast to the UK’s famous three-for-two deals, the French state fixes the prices of books and readers pay the same whether they buy online, at a high-street giant or a small bookseller. Discounting is banned. The government boasts that price controls have saved small independent bookshops from the ravages of free-market capitalism that were unleashed in the UK when it abandoned fixed prices in the 1990s. France has more than 3,000 independent local bookshops and 400 in Paris, compared with around 1,000 in the UK and only 130 in London. But online book giants are still eating into small bookshops, many of which struggle to stay afloat.

via Why France is shunning the ebook | Books | The Guardian.

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The Next Time Someone Says the Internet Killed Reading Books, Show Them This

It seems more people are reading books now than ever before…


This is some surprisingly good news from Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic.  I encourage you to click the link and read the full article.

My bet is this is due to e-readers, like the Amazon Kindle.  I’ve always read a lot, but the Kindle has put me into overdrive due to the ease of carrying it around and the ability to instantly obtain new books related to one you have just finished.

My guilty pleasure is mysteries set in various time periods in England, but I also read a lot of history, biographies and popular/literary fiction.  I go right from one book to another on my Kindle.

Of course, this doesn’t mention the quality of what people are reading, only the quantity….

Remember the good old days when everyone read really good books, like, maybe in the post-war years when everyone appreciated a good use of the semi-colon? Everyone’s favorite book was by Faulkner or Woolf or Roth. We were a civilized civilization. This was before the Internet and cable television, and so people had these, like, wholly different desires and attention spans. They just craved, craved, craved the erudition and cultivation of our literary kings and queens.

Well, that time never existed. Check out these stats from Gallup surveys. In 1957, not even a quarter of Americans were reading a book or novel. By 2005, that number had shot up to 47 percent. I couldn’t find a more recent number, but I think it’s fair to say that reading probably hasn’t declined to the horrific levels of the 1950s.

All this to say: our collective memory of past is astoundingly inaccurate. Not only has the number of people reading not declined precipitously, it’s actually gone up since the perceived golden age of American letters.

via The Next Time Someone Says the Internet Killed Reading Books, Show Them This Chart – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic.

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Mommie Dearest, Part 2: Martha Stewart’s Daughter Lashes Out at Domestic Diva in New Tell-All

Leave Martha Stewart alone!!!

I’m so tired of celebrity children trying to cash in on their parents.  No one would buy this lousy book if the bitch wasn’t Martha’s daughter.

Get a life and get a job- and not one your Mother gave you.

If I were Martha, I’d be calling my attorney and doing a little trimming on my Will….

Next thing you know, she’ll be trying to tell us Martha doesn’t do all this stuff herself, but has a staff to do it for her….

From that paragon of Journalistic integrity, US Weekly:


In a scathing new tell-all book, Martha Stewart’s daughter, Alexis, reveals that life as the homemaker’s child was far from perfect.

“Martha does everything better! You can’t win!” Alexis, 46, writes of her mother, 70, in her new book Whateverland: Learning to Live Here, out October 18 (as first excerpted by the U.K. Daily Mail). “If I didn’t do something perfectly, I had to do it again. I grew up with a glue gun pointed at my head.”

Now a mother herself, Alexis angrily reflects in her book on Martha’s lack of basic parenting skills.

“Martha was not interested in being kid-friendly,” Alexis reveals in Whateverland. “She used to make me wrap my own presents. She would hand me things right before Christmas and say, ‘Now wrap these but don’t look inside.'”

But Alexis says she took the most issue with the domestic diva’s habits around the house.

“My mother has a sign on all of her doors to take your shoes off,” Alexis writes. “For god’s sake! My mother’s dogs p–s and s–t on her rugs and she’s telling people to take their shoes off?

“[She] always peed with the door open,” Alexis continued of her mother’s bathroom hygiene. “I remember saying, ‘You know, now I have friends over! You can’t do that anymore! It’s gotta stop! My friends’ parents don’t do it! Give me a break here! I don’t feel like being embarrassed! It’s exhausting! I’m a kid! Stop!'”

Though Alexis drops these and other bombshells in the book, she insists she harbors no ill will. In fact, she even dedicated the tome to Martha. Says the TV personality of her daughter, Alexis: “She’s her own person. She makes up her own mind.”


MORE:   Martha Stewart’s Daughter Lashes Out at Domestic Diva in New Tell-All – UsMagazine.com.

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NO Wire Hangers!!!! Christina Crawford To Reveal Mother Joan Crawford’s Naked Home Videos

Never have children….

Never adopt children….

Never even talk to children…..

They will get their revenge eventually….

And it’s also a really good idea to avoid making nudie movies….

From The Huffington Post:


Broadway, hide your wire coat hangers. Joan Crawford’s daughter, Christina Crawford, is developing a one-woman show where she not only plans to reveal new secrets about her life with Mommie Dearest, Joan Crawford, but also show never before seen home movies of the screen legend in the nude.

“I began my career as an actress and I’ve always loved the theater,” Crawford tells me. “The Play is based on two of my books, the 30th Anniversary Edition of Mommie Dearest and my third book, Survivor — both of which were best sellers. It covers a long period of time and a much more complete story.”

Additionally, Christina reveals that she has discovered Joan’s (she never refers to her as her “mother”) blue movies — naked home videos that she cannot believe the controlling star never destroyed.

“I never knew that they existed before a year ago and never saw them before a month ago,” Crawford says. “I remembered her telling me about her married lover, Charles McCabe; however I never saw photos of him, till the home movies, when they were hunting, fishing, and canoeing in The Poconos.”

Christina says the most shocking thing she discovered during her research was Joan’s quiet desperation in her later years. But she still cannot forgive her mother for the childhood she had to survive, which included being beaten by wire hangers.

“Forgiveness is a two-way street and she never took responsibility for her behavior,” Christina tells me. Which is why she has chosen to call her show that she hopes to take on the road before Broadway, “Surviving Mommie Dearest.”

via Christina Crawford To Reveal Mother Joan Crawford’s Naked Home Videos.

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Cheney’s Book Features Foreword by Satan

Great satirical article from Andy Borowitz at  “The Borowitz Report”.

At least I think it’s satire.  It could well be true…

Hat tip to my friend, Vanita, for making me aware of  this….

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – Publishing circles were abuzz today with the news that the new memoir by former Vice President Dick Cheney features a foreword by an unusual contributor: Satan.

In his introduction, the Prince of Darkness said he rarely reads political memoirs but made an exception in the case of Mr. Cheney “because we had worked so closely together in the past.”

When he began to read the Cheney manuscript, however, the Lord of Misrule said he was “surprised” by what he found.

“Quite honestly, I couldn’t put it down,” Satan wrote.  “It was almost like a book I would have written myself.”

In what could be construed as minor criticism of the book, Satan admitted he was “miffed” that Mr. Cheney took total credit for the idea of invading Iraq, but added, “We were such close collaborators at the time, it may be hard for Dick to remember whose idea was whose – half the time we were finishing each other’s sentences.”

While Satan said he is unlikely to make a habit of writing introductions to books, he said that he could foresee making another exception in the future: “I’ve heard Rupert Murdoch is working on his memoir.”

Elsewhere, after Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) said God created last week’s earthquake and hurricane to punish America, God issued this rebuttal: “Actually, that’s why I created Michele Bachmann.”

via Cheney’s Book Features Foreword by Satan « Borowitz Report.

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Is a Sane President Bad for the Country?

Well, this is a new idea…

But I’m not going to dismiss it out of hand.  It kind of makes sense.

It’s certainly thought-provoking.

Of course, since I’ve just been reading a book about Germany in 1933, I would love to see how he applies this to Hitler….That was certainly not a constructive application of the theory.

Maybe his thought is a little mental illness is good, but not too much.  Moderation.  I can go along with that….

Note to Michele Bachmann:  He doesn’t say crazy is good, only slight mental illness, so don’t get too excited….

From The Washington Post:

A provocative new book argues there is a correlation between mental illness and successful leadership.

Psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi sums up his thesis like this: “Mental illness enhances leadership in crisis situations.”

In “A First-Rate Madness,” he says: “Sanity is rightly seen as healthy, conducive to personal happiness and success in life. But it does not always, or even usually, produce good leadership.”

Ghaemi notes that presidents widely considered successful — such as Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy — suffered from mood disorders for most of their lives. In Ghaemi’s view, a leader who has managed a lifetime of mental highs and lows is better equipped to handle trying situations.

In times of crisis, leaders with mood disorders were at an advantage rather than impaired, he writes. They were more resilient, more creative, more thoughtful, more empathetic and better able to endure times of intense stress. Along with presidents, he profiles General William Sherman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi.

Conversely, Ghaemi believes that George W. Bush and Tony Blair were failures as leaders because they were mentally healthy.

“Mentally healthy people are insulated from some of the world’s travails by their positive illusion — they believe that they and the world are actually better than they are. Generally speaking, positive illusion is a good thing,” he says, but cautions powerful people with positive illusions can fall prey to hubris.

According to Ghaemi, these kinds of leaders fall into the hubris syndrome when they have been in power for a long time. Using Bush and Blair as two living examples, he says they exhibited signs of hubris, which include not listening to opposing views, ignoring public opinion, believing God or history is on their side and demeaning dissenters.

“People who suffer from depression also benefit from depressive realism that should protect them from the illusion-enhancing effects of power,” Ghaemi concludes.

He says the way to avoid having leaders who suffer from hubris is to elect those who are “not too mentally healthy.”

So if Ghaemi is correct, along with questioning our 2012 presidential candidates about war and the economy, should we ask: “Do you ever have persistant sad, anxious or empty feelings?”

via Is a sane president bad for the country? – Political Bookworm – The Washington Post.

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Did J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI Push Ernest Hemingway to Suicide?

Speaking of evil…

I wonder if it’s possible to count the number of famous and not so famous lives destroyed by J Edgar Hoover.

This article from The Guardian raises some interesting new theories on his possible role in Ernest Hemingway’s death:


For five decades, literary journalists, psychologists and biographers have tried to unravel why Ernest Hemingway took his own life, shooting himself at his Idaho home while his wife Mary slept.

Some have blamed growing depression over the realisation that the best days of his writing career had come to an end. Others said he was suffering from a personality disorder.

Now, however, Hemingway’s friend and collaborator over the last 13 years of his life has suggested another contributing factor, previously dismissed as a paranoid delusion of the Nobel prize-winning writer. It is that Hemingway was aware of his long surveillance by J Edgar Hoover’s FBI, who were suspicious of his links with Cuba, and that this may have helped push him to the brink.

Writing in the New York Times on the 50th anniversary of Hemingway’s death, AE Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway and Hemingway and His World, said he believed that the FBI’s surveillance “substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide”, adding that he had “regretfully misjudged” his friend’s fear of the organisation.

The reassessment is significant as it was precisely because of Papa Hemingway that the writer’s fear of being bugged and followed by the FBI first surfaced. Hotchner’s belated change of heart casts a new light on the last few months of Hemingway’s life and two incidents in particular.

In November 1960, Hotchner writes, he had gone to visit Hemingway and Mary in Ketchum, Idaho, for an annual pheasant shoot. Hemingway was behaving oddly, Hotchner recalls: “When Ernest and our friend Duke MacMullen met my train at Shoshone, Idaho, for the drive to Ketchum, we did not stop at the bar opposite the station as we usually did because Ernest was anxious to get on the road. I asked why the hurry. ‘The Feds.’


“‘They tailed us all the way. Ask Duke.’

“‘Well… there was a car back of us out of Hailey.’

“‘Why are FBI agents pursuing you?’ I asked.

“‘It’s the worst hell. The goddamnedest hell. They’ve bugged everything. That’s why we’re using Duke’s car. Mine’s bugged. Everything’s bugged. Can’t use the phone. Mail intercepted.’

“We rode for miles in silence. As we turned into Ketchum, Ernest said quietly: ‘Duke, pull over. Cut your lights.’ He peered across the street at a bank. Two men were working inside. ‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘Auditors. The FBI’s got them going over my account.’

“‘But how do you know?’

“‘Why would two auditors be working in the middle of the night? Of course it’s my account’.”

It would not be the only time during this visit that Hemingway would complain about being under FBI surveillance. On the last day of Hotchner’s visit, at dinner with the writer and his wife, Hemingway pointed out two men at the bar who he identified as “FBI agents”.

More: Fresh claim over role the FBI played in suicide of Ernest Hemingway | Books | The Observer.

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The Oxford Comma Is Safe … For Now

I love commas and spend a good portion of my writing life worrying about comma placement.  That happens when you are both completely anal retentive and OCD….

However, I may not clean up my blog posts until hours, days or weeks later and really get the placement right then.  I’m that rare writer that publishes first drafts and cleans them up into the finished product-if there is one-over the hours, weeks and months following the initial blog post. As a blogger, I do this in full public view.

Only those few people who actually read my stuff more than once or those who come across it later on see it at it’s best.  But that’s why blogging works for me…

Blogging is a way around the paralysis of perfectionism.

Anyway, I love this article from NPR as this writer seems to be my long, lost twin in grammatical and punctuational thinking….except she gets it right the first time and before publication.

Here’s an excerpt and a link to the full article from Linda Holmes at NRP:


I have a confession.

I am only too happy to emphatically defend split infinitives against the accusation that they are offensive in any language except Latin. I believe perfectly marvelous sentences can end with prepositions or begin with “and.”

I make up words, I write in fragments, I am absolutely not a flawless user of any kind of punctuation, I make noises in the middle of my own writing (like “AAAAARGH!”), and I often like the rhythms of sentences more than their technicalities. Run-on sentences amuse me. I frequently give the impression that the American Parentheticals Council has me on retainer, or that I am encouraging a bidding war between Big Ellipses and Big Dashes to see which will become my official sponsor. (“Dashes: The Official ‘And Another Thing’ Punctuator Of Monkey See.”) I write “email” without a hyphen, I am a big fan of the word “crazypants,” and my plan is to master “who”/”whom” only on my deathbed, as my ironic dying gift to absolutely no one, since there will be no one left to hear me.

And yet, even the rumbling of a distant threat to the Oxford comma (or “serial comma”) turns me instantly into an NFL referee, blowing my whistle and improvising some sort of signal — perhaps my hands clasped to my own head as if in pain — to indicate that the loss of the serial comma would sadden me beyond words.

This blew up yesterday when there was a rumbling that the University of Oxford was dumping its own comma. As it turned out, this wasn’t the case. They haven’t changed their authoritative style guide, but they’ve changed their internal PR department procedures that they use for press releases. The PR department and the editorial department are two different things, so this doesn’t necessarily mean much of anything, except that it’s maybe a little embarrassing to have the PR department of the university with which you’re affiliated abandon your style guide.

via Going, Going, And Gone?: No, The Oxford Comma Is Safe … For Now : Monkey See : NPR.

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