Tag Archives: Brown and Company

A Summer Place

Summerland: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand (Reagan Arthur Books, $26.99, 400 pages)

Life can be traumatic and daunting even on Nantucket Island, the idyllic summer vacation destination for generations of families, including the wealthy and famous like Martha Stewart.   These are the summer people who see the island as an escape from reality.   Of course on Nantucket, like any resort, there must be the year-round residents who live their lives in full on the island 30 miles from the mainland.

Elin Hilderbrand knows of what she writes.   As a resident, she knows the year-around version of island life.   Summerland is the eleventh novel based in her neck of the woods.   Two of her most recent past novels, Silver Girl and The Island have been reviewed on this site.   Both of these reviews were based on the audio versions of the books.   Each was superb; however, the magic of seeing the story in hard copy was most evident for this book.

The narrative is written from the perspective of each of the main characters, including Nantucket.   There are two generations represented here, teenagers and their parents.   This time around the human experiences up for exploration are death, loss, parenting and children.   Both generations are subjected to the fallout effects when the golden girl of her class, Penny Alistair, dies in a horrific auto crash on high school graduation night.   Her twin brother Hobby, short for Hobson, is mangled and left in a coma.   Two other juniors, Jake and Demeter escape unscathed.

The story line is believable and somewhat predictable but it is the way the characters are developed that makes this a compelling read.   Regardless of the reader’s age, adult or young adult, the very poignant lessons learned are delivered in a manner that’s achievable only by a master story teller. 

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Author’s Perspective

Roy Peter Clark wrote the 2010 bestselling book, The Glamour of Grammar, and on September 21, 2011, his new book will be released.  The new book is entitled Help! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces.   Mr. Clark joins us here for a guest post, answering a key question for us.

Joseph Arellano

JA:  Should you write the ending of your story first?  

RPC:  The paragon for this paradigm is J.K. Rowling, who has told the story many times that she began writing the seven-book Harry Potter series by writing the ending first.   Not the ending of the first book, mind you, but the ending of the seventh book!   She even teased her faithful readers with the news that the last word in the series would be “scar.”   She changed her mind.

It helped me to write to an ending for my 1999 newspaper serial novel “Ain’t Done Yet.”   The story, in 30 chapters, described a burned-out reporter hired to investigate a cult planning a terrorist attack for New Year’s Day 2000.   Max Timlin, the reporter, feared two things most of all:  lightning storms and high places.   So, of course, he would fight to the death with the villain on top of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in a fierce storm.   Because I knew the big arc of the story, I could focus on the little arcs, those moments of surprise that reveal patterns, cliff hangers, and character.

I like the advice of a novelist (don’t remember his name) who said that writing fiction was like driving a car at night along a winding country road.   You don’t need to see all the way to your destination, as long as your headlights can illuminate a stretch of the road ahead.   In other words, if you can write your way to the end of a scene, you can build narrative momentum toward what’s coming next.

Interested in winning a copy of Help! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces?   If so, just return to this site on Wednesday, September 21st to see how you can win one of five (5) copies that we’re giving away!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

Roy Peter Clark, author of the new guidebook Help! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces, answers a key question for us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Addicted to Shopping

Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict by Avis Cardella (Little, Brown & Company, 272 pages)

“I used shopping to avoid myself.”

Be prepared for a brutally honest, yet somewhat elusive account of Avis Cardella’s journey into, and recovery from, the nearly overwhelming habit of shopping and shopping and shopping.   Alongside her own story, Cardella incorporates general information regarding the evolution of shopping in excess beginning with Madame Bovary up through today.   This is no laughing matter.   The prevalence of shopping as therapy or a habit is so great that the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders may contain “compulsive shopping disorder” as a separate listing rather than an entry under the heading of obsessive compulsive disorders.

The mix of confessional talk, some statistics and the events that were pivotal in the author’s life and, more importantly, her relationships with men, surround her almost as if she were dancing around herself, changing costumes as she assumed roles.   There is so much numbness expressed in the narrative that is almost like seeing her through a blanket of fog – not hot or cold, just thick and obscuring.

Cardella was drawn to fashion at an early age.   As a girl she had a regular supply of magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Glamour that her mother purchased faithfully each month.   This mother-daughter duo spent their best time together on shopping expeditions.   Cardella’s mother loved dressing up, especially in costume-like outfits.   Sadly, she died at an early age which left a gaping hole in her daughter’s life.

Jobs became a means to enable shopping, first as a teen employee at Macy’s and then as an adult flight attendant.   That first Macy’s card was managed well as were her purchases.   It was only later that the spending got out of hand.   Cardella writes of her precipitous decline into a world of shopping that sounds more like a drug addiction than the usual garden variety retail therapy most people indulge in once in a while.   She describes it as being taken over by need and experiencing a trance-like state when wandering through stores in Manhattan.

The lure of fashion is hard to resist in this book and Cardella has an amazing talent for describing the garments and accessories that became part of her.   Each page contains at least one designer name or a reference to the lifestyle she sometimes lead that went with wearing the best labels money, or credit, could buy.   In all honesty, this reviewer had some vivid recollections of her first pair of flats, in an awesome turquoise color and a champagne-colored taffeta dress worn to dancing classes in junior high school.

Cardella readily admits that her wardrobe began as mix-and-match pieces acquired without a strategy or goal in mind.   This wardrobe could easily be a metaphor for the way she lived acquiring relationships.   After all, if you don’t know yourself, how can you possibly know what will suit you?   She had no real sense of the future, nor did she make plans.

The writing style is calm, even and well-spoken with the exception of a few minor grammatical blunders and three funny homonyms (peak for peek, weary for wary, and reeled for railed), that crept in along the way.   Two thirds of the way through the book, this reviewer found herself wondering how far a shopping addict has to go to hit bottom.

The takeaway from Spent  is that stuff has power!   Whether that power is good or bad may depend upon the strength of the individual acquiring the stuff.   Highly recommended for moms and daughters.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A copy of the book was purchased for her by her husband.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A book giveaway for Anglophiles!

My Paper Chase 2Ten years ago, a distinguished English reporter, Donald Trelford of The Observer, wrote this about Harold Evans, editor of the Sunday (London) Times:   “The book Harry should write now is the story of his own life, from St. Mary’s Road Central School in Manchester to the Sunday Times to the conquest of corporate America and rubbing shoulders with the Washington elite.”   Well, Harold Evans has now written that book, entitled My Paper Chase, and this autobiography of almost 600 pages is being released by Little, Brown and Company.   We have 5 copies to give away!

Here is the Google books overview of My Paper Chase:  

“In My Paper Chase, Harold Evans recounts the wild and wonderful tale of newspapering life.   His story stretches from the 1930s to his service in World War II, through town big and off the map.   He discusses his passion for the crusading style of reporting he championed, his clashes with Rupert Murdoch, and his struggle to use journalism to better the lives of those less fortunate.   There’s a star studded cast and a tremendously vivid sense of what once was:  the lead type, the smell of the presses, eccentrics throughout and angry editors screaming over the intercoms.   My Paper Chase tells the stories of Evans’s great loves:  newspapers and Tina Brown, the bright, young journalist who became his wife.   In an age when newspapers everywhere are under threat, My Paper Chase is not just a glorious recounting of an amazing life, but a nostalgic journey in black and white.”

It should be noted that Harold Evans was the newspaper editor who broke the worldwide story about thalidomide and led the effort to justly compensate the victims of this improperly tested drug.   My Paper Chase is 592 pages, sounds fascinating for readers and newspaper lovers (and prospective journalists) and sells for a list price of $27.99.   Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group (HBG), we’re giving away five new hardbound copies to our own loyal readers.

What are the contest rules?   As usual, they’re very simple.   To enter this contest, send your name and e-mail address to josephsreviews@gmail.com .   This will count as one entry.   For a second entry, complete the following sentence:  “If I were to visit England, the first thing I would like to see is _______________________.”  

The deadline for submitting entries – and we’re giving everyone plenty of time – is Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at midnight PST.   On Wednesday, November 25th, Munchy the cat will pick out the names of the 5 winners from a large plastic container.   The winners will be notified the next day, for Thanksgiving, via e-mail.   Don’t forget that you can’t win if you don’t enter!

Note:   For this contest, prior contest winners of HGB books are not eligible.   (If in doubt, enter anyway and we will verify eligibility.)   Also, you must receive your mail at a residential (street) address in the continental U.S. or Canada.   HBG will not mail books to P.O. boxes.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized