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Posts Tagged ‘The Mindful Reader column’

In today’s column, I review Howard Frank Mosher’s God’s Kingdom and Castle Freeman Jr.’s The Devil in the Valley. Mosher’s book is a historical novel set in a village in Vermont near the Quebec border and Freeman’s is a re-telling of the classic story of a man selling his soul to the devil — with a decidedly different outcome than readers may expect, and also set in rural Vermont.

Here’s a taste of the column:

“God’s Kingdom” by Howard Frank Mosher is set in 1950s Vermont, in a village near the Canadian border called Kingdom Common. It’s a novel about Jim Kinneson, son of the local newspaper editor, and his family, who have lived in the Common for generations. Through a series of stories about Jim’s teen years, Mosher touches on concerns of the time and illuminates the past. And there is plenty of past in Kingdom Common — from troubles between Native Americans and settlers, to the Underground Railroad, to the burning of a settlement of former slaves.

In Castle Freeman Jr.’s “The Devil in the Valley,” a stranger named Dangerfield visits retired teacher and frustrated writer Langdon Taft to offer a deal: Taft can enjoy “talents” for seven months and then belong to Dangerfield’s “firm. But Taft is different from other clients.

You can read the rest in today’s New Hampshire Sunday News or online at the paper’s website.

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This week, a fellow librarian’s debut novel in The Mindful Reader Column.

Here’s the beginning:

“Concord resident Max Wirestone‘s debut novel, The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss, is a “geek” mystery.  As library director in New Durham, he noticed many geeks (devoted, possibly even immersive fans of gaming, the internet, comics, and/or related topics) also liked mysteries. So he decided to write a book for both geeks and mystery lovers. I don’t know if Wirestone invented the geek mystery sub-genre, but I can say The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss is unlike anything else I’ve ever read.”

Read the rest here.

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This week’s column covers two books that celebrate what’s all around us: The Curious Nature Guide: Explore the Natural Wonders All Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and New Hampshire Women Farmers: Pioneers of the Local Food Movement by Helen Brody, photographed by Leslie Tuttle.

Here’s a bit about each – read the rest here.

Clare Walker Leslie’s gorgeous “The Curious Nature Guide: Explore the Natural Wonders All Around You” is designed to help grown-ups reconnect with nature. Leslie writes, “Consider this book a companion. Leave it by your window to remind you to look outside. Take it to work for when you need a break.”

Author Helen Brody and photographer Leslie Tuttle collaborated on “New Hampshire Women Farmers: Pioneers of the Local Food Movement.” This is another visually pleasing book, celebrating farms around the state and the women who work on them. Many places and faces will be familiar if you frequent markets, farm stands, or pick-your-own orchards, but the stories behind these women and their family enterprises may be new to you. Brody and Tuttle also shed light on the growing importance of agritourism in New Hampshire and the movement to teach younger generations not only where their food comes from, but how they can produce their own.

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I review books by two Maine authors in this week’s Mindful Reader column in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Kate Braestrup’s new memoir is Anchor and Flares and Robert Klose’s hilarious send-up of campus politics is Long Live Grover Cleveland.

Here’s the first paragraph for each:

Kate Braestrup is chaplain to the Maine Warden Service. Her new memoir, “Anchor & Flares,” deals with all of the things she’s written about before – family, love, grief, faith – and also service. Ranging across topics as diverse as the condition of a body that has been decomposing under a frozen lake and a study of the qualities shared by Germans who rescued Jews rather than turning a blind eye to the Holocaust, Braestrup talks about hope and despair, joy and devastation. And she writes of these things in the context of her eldest son’s decision to enlist in the Marine Corps.

and

University of Maine biology professor Robert Klose’s novel “Long Live Grover Cleveland” is a delicious farce. Grover Cleveland is a small college in Maine, founded during the Vietnam war by a distant relative of President Cleveland as a haven for students – and some faculty – who want to avoid the draft. When the college’s founding president dies, he designates his nephew Marcus Cleveland, a used-car salesman in New Jersey, as his successor. Marcus is a good salesman who doesn’t seem entirely in touch with the world.

You can read the entire column here.

 

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This week in The Mindful Reader a terrific historical novel-police procedural by Lucretia Grindle. Here’s the beginning of the column, which ran in today’s New Hampshire Sunday News.

The Mindful Reader: Finding Italy in ‘The Lost Daughter’

Boston native Lucretia Grindle lives on the Maine coast as well as in England. In the afterword of her new novel, The Lost Daughter she explains that after 9/11, she and her husband talked about “what they would choose to do if the world were going to fly to pieces.” Grindle recalls saying, “I want to go to the Uffizi. If World War III is going to break out, let’s go to Florence.”

That decision turned out to be the first of many trips to Italy, which she calls “one of the most intellectually rich, vibrant, and contradictory countries in the world. . . .” Her extensive travel has inspired several novels.

“The Lost Daughter” is set in contemporary Florence and late 1960s-1970s Ferrara and Rome. It’s both a mystery and a historical novel, examining the years when Italy was in the grip of the Brigate Rosse, or Red Brigade, a militant leftist group. When the book opens, the story is focused on a 17-year-old American student, Kristin Carson, who’s studying art history in Florence and has a much older boyfriend she met online and knows only as Dante. When her prominent and well-connected orthopedic surgeon father and her stepmother fly to Italy for her 18th birthday, they learn she has disappeared.
You can read the rest here.

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In today’s New Hampshire Sunday News, I review a self-published book and explain why I don’t review more.

Potential and flaws found in ‘Destiny’

People often ask me why I don’t review more self-published books.There are too many for me to read them all, and self-published books are often flawed. If I can’t get through a book, no matter how it was published, my column readers probably wouldn’t want to, either.

What’s lacking in self-published books? A skilled editor lets the author know what a good story needs to be great, what should be trimmed and honed. Most authors are too close to their own manuscripts to make that judgment.

New Hampshire author Carl Howe Hansen’s self-published novel “Destiny” is part family-saga, part environmental thriller set in part on a 140-acre island off the coast of Maine that has been in the Petersen family since the 1940’s. “Destiny” is both a theme of the novel and the name of their “heavy wooden schooner,” built by Olaf Petersen during World War I.
You can read the rest by taking this link. Don’t miss the paper’s interview with Donald Hall, also in today’s edition.

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Here’s a preview of this week’s column. I review New Hampshire author Donna Decker’s novel Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You and Julia Bascom’s The Obsessive Joy of Autism.

The Mindful Reader: Novel explores true-life massacre and its impact

Franklin Pierce University professor Donna Decker is known for her seminars, including one on school shootings. Now she’s written a novel, “Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You,” about the Dec. 6, 1989, massacre of 14 women students at École Polytechnique in Montreal.

In her author’s note, Decker makes clear that the book is fiction, and the characters are her own, even if they are based on real lives. She explains she’d always intended to write a nonfiction book about the massacre, but hearing author Slavenka Drakulic discuss her novel about rape victims of the Bosnian war changed her mind. Like Drakulic, Decker wanted “to get at the emotional truth” of the women who died; most of the news coverage at the time focused on the shooter.

Decker’s novel centers on one of the engineering students who died, a feminist reporter whose name appeared on the killer’s list of targets, and a student at another Montreal university who experiences date rape in her first semester at college. Decker draws readers into her character’s lives by fleshing out their family and friends, and by showing readers that they are people with foibles and faults as well as dreams of the lives ahead of them.

Read the rest here.

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