Category Archives: books

Susan Branch

Susan is an amazing artist who has a huge following (her ‘Girlfriends’), I had the distinct thrill of meeting her in person this past Monday at a fantastic event hosted by Titcomb’s Bookshop, at the old Town Hall (gorgeous) in historic Sandwich, Ma.

Susan’s first books were published in the 1980’s, and over the years fans of her work have faithfully collected and treasured each of her many books and her latest ‘A Fine Romance: Falling in Love With the English Countryside’ is wonderful, just packed with the beautiful illustrations that her millions of fans love, in addition this book has way more Susan, more writing (rather than the usual wonderful quotes that she usually uses with her illustrations)

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The Technologists by Matthew Pearl

I’m afraid I have to start off by telling you that this wonderful novel will not be published until the cold month of February 2012. That being said, I just now finished reading the advance copy and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mr. Pearl is well-known for his historical novels, based on some fact, with a lot of mystery, intrigue and imagination thrown in, and very well written they are (check them out!!!).

The Technologists follows the small first graduating class of MIT, and as much as the students are infatuated by technology, the world  outside the walls of their dear school is frightened by the rapid advances in mechanics,  technology and science itself. A series of bizarre mechanical catastrophes threatens Boston and the new Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1868.

My uncle is a graduate of MIT (geology), and my daughter of Harvard (their rivals), and I live in Massachusetts, so I particularly enjoyed this fascinating novel, and especially appreciated that the author filled the reader in at the end as to which characters were based on actual people and all they accomplished in their lives.

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My Favorite Summer Reads 2011

Here are some of my favorites this summer, some could be considered ‘beach reads’ aka ‘light-ish’, but I don’t read ‘fluff’-so these are all really good reads:

“Maine” by J. Courtney Sullivan: Author of another fabulous novel “Commencement”, this is a novel of an inter-generational family who take turns staying at the family summer home of the coast of Maine, touches on family dynamics and how they change when the matriarch of the family becomes elderly, very well written.

“Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles:

Fabulous first novel, this author is very talented. Manhattan in the 1930’s, society on the brink of downfall….In 1966 Katey attends an art opening with her husband, of Walker Evans’
photographs of people on the subway circa 1930’s-in two of the photographs she
recognizes someone from her past. She is thrown back to her memories of her life
as a young secretary in Manhattan in 1938. Encounters with eccentric Greenwich
Village artists and writers, and one special man.

“Faith” by Jennifer Haigh (a terrific author), Boston area families and the fallout from the priest abuse scandals, again very well written and realistic portrayal of family interactions.

“Caleb’s Crossing” by Geraldine Brooks: historical fiction regarding the real life first Wampanoag native American to graduate from Harvard (born on Martha’s Vineyard, 1700’s), the next Wampanoag to graduate from Harvard graduated this spring!

“Among the Wonderful” by Stacy Carlson, see my review of this wonderful book, coming early August-I really loved this one (Barnum’s NYC dime museum in the 1800’s, it’s resident’s lives)

“French Lessons” by Ellen Sussman, a fun but well-written book shose chapters each feature a different American coming to Paris and partnering with a different French tutor, the tutor’s lives and the lives of the Americans, romance, melancholy of living in an alien, though captivating culture, and fabulous Paris of course…

“Miss Timmin’s School for Girls” by Nayana Currimbhoy: This is one of my favorites, a boarding school in the mountains of India, circa late ’60’s, a murder or suicide plays a big role in the book, but mostly a wonderfully written novel with great, memorable characters.

“The Soldier’s Wife” by Margaret Leroy: Takes place during WWII on the Guernsey Islands (off England), this setting has been used before but this novel is really captivating, the soldier and his wife do not have a true passionate relationship, she is left behind on the island with her small children, Nazi’s invade & take over the village, and she learns what love truly is, and the cost of standing up for human values for once in your life, really good.

“The Man in the Rockefeller Suit” by Mark Seal, non-fiction, this is a fascinating account of ‘Clark Rockefeller’, the man who kidnapped his beloved daughter ‘Snooks’, and turned out to be a serial impostor-a truly gripping and bizarre read. Author is a terrific journalist who’s often featured in Vanity Fair magazine.

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“The Rules of the Tunnel-My Brief Period of Madness” by Ned Zeman

Vanity Fair magazine contributor Ned Zeman’s memoir of battling mental illness
is funny as well as harrowing. After years of therapy and medication fail to
lift his mood enough to function well as a writer, he opts for he last resort,
ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), recommended by doctors after he checks himself
into the infamous McLean Hospital (Sylvia Plath, William Styron and John Nash
being ‘graduates’ of that institution).
Despite mild warnings of side effects including temporary amnesia, he is
excited to give it a try, maybe this will be the solution to his sleeping all
the time/not sleeping at all, and persistent thoughts of death. Though his ECT
doctor explained that the possible amnesia is temporary in nearly all cases, in
Mr. Zeman’s it appears it was not. His life is a series of post-it notes
‘Remember-Amnesia!’, and loving friends who read and monitor his emails in an
effort to keep him safe from himself.
At times hysterically funny, readers at all touched by depressive/bi-polar
disorder will find it eerily familiar. Mr. Zeman is to be lauded for his honest
portrayal of mental illness as well as his razor-sharp wit and literary talent.

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“The Leftovers” by Tom Perrotta


Once again author Tom Perrotta mines the underbelly of American suburban life. In this ironically timely novel he explores the reactions of his characters whose loved ones have simply disappeared into thin air, all at once. Born-again Christians deny that what has occurred is “The Rapture” because, after all, they are still here on earth, left behind. Non-believers are left questioning their sense of reality, and most find it an open invitation to go ‘off the rails. Marriages dissolve, children and adults run away to join cults, all in a vain attempt to come to terms with the unexplainable.
A poignant and realistically portrayed look at American ‘family values’ at risk

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“The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman coming Oct. 2011

Alice Hoffman has written an extraordinary novel of the ancient world. Driven out of Jerusalem by the Romans, band of Jewish refugees set out to start over in a place that they can feel safe and practice their religion in peace. Yael is red-haired and freckled, shunned by her assassin father for causing her mother to die in childbirth, she has the heart of a lion. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy in warrior’s ways, until her father is finally blessed by a true son. She never forgets her life as a warrior. Shirah has lived as a mystic and wise woman, forever treading the thin line between magic and witchcraft.
They are all brought together in the end to Masada, King Herod’s seemingly impenetrable fortress kingdom, where they work as dovekeepers, fall in love, and fight to defend themselves and their community.
A beautifully crafted novel unlike any of the author’s previous works.

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“Best Staged Plans”

When midlife throws you a curve-ball take professional home-stager (think HGTV) Sandy Sullivan’s advice and pack your reading glasses first so you can see where life is taking you (GPS helps too). Through her comic and sometimes poignant misadventures she finds out that the life she had begun to think she was outgrowing is actually pretty wonderful. And the home staging tips and repurposing Trader Joe dinner ‘recipes’ are ‘keepers’.

Another fun and fabulous novel from a  wonderful author!

Coming in June 2011

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