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Florida Books for Young Readers June 16, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Fiction, readers, Reading, Reading lists.
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Several months ago, I received a nice message from a gentleman who was looking for books about Florida for a young friend.  Unfortunately, the request came just at the time that we were gearing up for our move, and so I’m afraid it got shelved until now.

My correspondent was interested in books that portrayed Florida as it used to be.  I have also included some books, such as those by Carl Hiaasen, that deal with contemporary issues of development and the environment.   Click here for the list.

I’m sorry it took so long to complete this reading list.  I might mention that I am a 5th generation Floridian, so it was a labor of love.

Please consider reading some of these books even if you don’t fall into the “young reader” category.  Books aimed at a younger audience are often very readable with a compelling story line; kids won’t sit still for them otherwise.

Please send me your suggestions of books about Florida that you love!  I would really appreciate it.

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess

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Repackaging the Good Life June 4, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Audiobooks, Authors, Authors You Shouldn't Miss, Books, Fiction, Great Reads, Literature, Mysteries, Reading.
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Alexander McCall Smith is best known in the United States for the Number One Ladies Detective Agency books, a series of gentle mystery novels set in Botswana. 

But if you lived in Edinburgh, you might be more familiar with his ongoing serial in the Scotsman, 44 Scotland Street.  If my calculations are correct, he has published something like 500 short chapters in the newspaper, and will resume the storyline later this year.  Five collections have been published, starting with 44 Scotland Street, and four are currently available in the U.S.

I am a huge fan of this series, even though I will admit it is not for everyone.  If you require a great deal of suspense, drama, and graphic portrayals of sex, you would do well to look elsewhere. 

What you will find here is a series of stories about people living their lives the best way they know how, set against the backdrop of a wonderful city.  Some of the characters are more commendable than others, but McCall Smith leaves the judgment to us.

What I love about the 44 Scotland Street series is that it asks questions about the good life – and gives some answers, too.  For McCall Smith, friendship, art, good food, and good conversation are all part of the good life.  Caring about our fellow human beings is most important of all.

Am I the only one who thinks that as a culture, we seem to have lost track of much of what makes a life good?  These tremendously appealing stories remind us of the importance of the life well lived.   I love the thought that folks in Edinburgh have had an opportunity to think about this when they pick up their daily newspaper.

Thank you, Mr. McCall Smith, for bringing so much pleasure – and food for thought – into my life!  The goal of the classical writer was to delight and to instruct.  You have certainly done that for me.

Happy Reading,

The Book Goddess

P.S.  Listening to this series on audiobook will definitely enhance your enjoyment!

Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand June 2, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Fiction, Mysteries, Reading.
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This was my first experience with a mystery by Fred Vargas, who, oddly enough, is a French woman.  I enjoyed it very much indeed! 

Comissaire Adamsberg is brilliant, eccentric, and has some secrets of his own.  His “sidekick” Danglard is a gifted detective who is overly fond of white wine.  Their search for a serial killer is interrupted by a Canada to study evidence techniques with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Trouble follows them there in a very nasty way.  

The plot is convoluted, in a good way, and the solution turns out to be quite exotic.  For me, the real pleasure of the book lay in the writing style, the characters, and the humor.  I enjoyed the culture clash between the French and the French Canadians, and how Adamsberg solved the problem of Danglard’s fear of flying. 

The best recommendation for a mystery author is whether you want to read more of their books.  Fred Vargas gets a definite yes! 

Happy Reading, 

The Book Goddess

Favorite Books to Recommend May 14, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Audiobooks, Books, Fiction, Literature, readers, Reading, Reading lists.
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Recommending books is my business, or at least part of my business, and it can be a wonderful thing.  The right book at the right time is a real gift.  My friend Tim told me that Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole changed his life.  That book, like Tim, is one of a kind, and on that occasion I got it exactly right. 

Sometimes it doesn’t go so well.  Another favorite book of mine is Raney by Clyde Edgerton, which I think is funny and charming and very well-written.  I was delighted to recommend it to my friend Peggie, but it left her cold.  Oh, well. 

Anyway, I was recently asked for book recommendations by two friends.  I’ve decided to give both of them, and you, pretty much the same list.  I happen to think these are wonderful choices that would appeal to most book lovers. 

So – here are my choices, starting with some fine American novels:

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (especially good in audio)

If you like humorous fiction (and I realize this can be very subjective, even more so than literary merit), these are some terrific titles: 

How to Be Good by Nick Hornby

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (audio version is excellent)

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

And, some excellent nonfiction: 

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls 

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi 

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson 

I would love to have your recommendations, too!

Happy Reading, 

The Book Goddess

Books and Love in Barcelona April 23, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Literature, readers, Reading.
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Oh, to be in Barcelona, now that April’s here!  Barcelona is one of my favorite cities, and today is one of their special days, La Diada de Sant Jordi (that’s Catalan for St. George’s Day).  This is a day to celebrate books and love.  Ladies receive roses as gifts, and men receive books.  The romance comes from the St. George legend.  The day is special to books because it is International Book Day, so designated because both Shakespeare and Cervantes died on April 23, 1616.

You’re probably thinking, how can I get in on this celebration?  Well, a red rose for your wife or sweetheart (and your mother-in-law) would be a good start.  And there are some wonderful books about Barcelona:  Robert Hughes wrote a landmark book (Barcelona) about the fabulous art and architecture of the city.  Even more apropos might be the remarkable Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a novel set in Barcelona which features a graveyard of books and in which fictional characters seem to come alive. 

Happy Reading! 

The Book Goddess

The Book Floor at 411 Clematis Street April 20, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Audiobooks, Book Clubs, Book Floor, Books, Fiction, Just Browsing, Literature, Mysteries, Public libraries, Reading, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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The first floor of our new library has been designed to provide a delightful browsing experience for the book lover.  We have selected the newest and the best and arranged the entire floor so that you can easily find the books you really love.  There are about fifty separate collections, ranging from the expected, like New Mystery, to the more unusual, such as Just for Fun and Go Green.  

The selections are also organized into “neighborhoods,” so that collections of similar interest will be near each other.  If you love Science Fiction, you may love our nearby Graphic Novels, too.  House & Home is conveniently located near Food & Wine as well as Crafts.   And one of my favorite areas is the small but excellent children’s and teen section, located near books about parenting – designed for the quick drop-in by the busy family! 

We also have two small reading rooms, one of which is populated by a fabulous selection of paperbacks, and the other by great choices for book clubs.  And – do not miss our Staff Picks or our great selection of Books on CD, perfect for the commuter. 

I already love browsing on our Book Floor, and I hope you will too.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Happy Reading  –

The Book Goddess

A Celebration of Friendship February 19, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Fiction, library programs, Reading, Reading lists, The Latest and the Greatest, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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We had a good discussion today at The Latest and Greatest – our topic was A Celebration of Friendship.  It’s not surprising that many wonderful books have been written on the theme of friendship.  Of all our important relationships, friendships are the ones we get to choose.  I have been more fortunate than I can say to have made some of my very best friends among my book club participants and my library colleagues.

I’m going to let the reading list speak for itself (here’s the link), but I should mention a few titles that my book-loving friends reminded me about:

Christina recommended Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott.  This is one of my all-time favorites, too.  I read it multiple times in my childhood, and in recent times had the pleasure of visiting the Alcott home.  Christina also recommended Leaving Cecil Street by Diane McKinney-Whetstone.

Other recommendations were The Tender Bar, a memoir by J. R. Moehringer (Lois); A Red Bird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (Marsha); and The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor (Claudia).  All great suggestions, and I would love to hear yours, too!

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess

Bad Sex in Fiction Awards December 18, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Literature, Reading.
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I am always interested in literary awards.  Since reading time is so limited, it’s helpful to know which books are considered the best in their class.  

Recently, however, I came upon a different sort of literary award – the Literary Review (UK) Bad Sex in Fiction Award.  Please do not misunderstand.  These are not bad books – this year’s nominees include John Updike and Russell Banks, for example, and the list often has overlapping titles with the Booker Prize.  It’s just that the judges have tracked down sex scenes (all right, maybe they just happened upon them in the course of their reading) in these books that are – well – pretty bad.

If you want to get an idea of what the judges are on about, link to the Literary Review‘s site.  I think the passages quoted will express it better than I possibly could.  

Happy Reading,

The Book Goddess

When Will There Be Good News? November 19, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors You Shouldn't Miss, Books, Fiction, Literature, Mysteries, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club.
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I just finished reading When Will There Be Good News? By Kate Atkinson, the latest installment in her Jackson Brodie detective saga, and it was terrific!  I have greatly enjoyed all three of the Brodie novels. We read the first one, Case Histories, in the Second Saturday Book Club, and it was a great success.

There are several story lines and a number of memorable characters, but at the center of the book is a question – how do people go on after something truly horrific happens to them?  Joanna Hunter is a successful physician and a devoted mother; but she is also the survivor of the murder of her mother and her two siblings, and the murderer is about to be released from prison.  There are other women in danger, too, including a truly amazing 16 year old orphan.  There’s a train wreck, and a woman that Jackson is very attracted to, and confusion of identities.  If this sounds rather Gothic, I suppose it is (astounding things are always happening to Brodie), but it’s grounded in realistic human emotion. 

If you like mysteries, you should read this book.  If you like a good story with great insight into character, you should definitely read this book – but read the other two Brodie novels first! 

Happy Reading! 

The Book Goddess

Farewell, Tony Hillerman October 28, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Literature, Mysteries, Reading.
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I was sad to learn that Tony Hillerman passed away on Sunday.  Hillerman’s goal in writing his mysteries set in Navajo country was to enlighten others about Indian culture.  He succeeded magnificently.  

I’ve blogged about Tony Hillerman before.  He is one of my official “Authors You Shouldn’t Miss,” and I hope you don’t.  It’s sad to think that he won’t be writing any more of his wonderful mysteries.  He will be greatly missed. 

The Book Goddess