Reading from Home Rerun: Marie’s Reading: “Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots” by Jessica Soffer

3.BookApricotsHeather, our archivist at the library, put me on to this one.  I’m glad I took her suggestion!

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer tells the story of Lorca, the emotionally neglected daughter of a chef, and Victoria, an Iraqi Jewish widow who used to own a restaurant.  Told in alternating chapters from both of their points of view, we uncover their secrets, desires, and fears as they come together to cook, and then as their relationship evolves into something much deeper.

This is a densely written novel with beautiful imagery.  The characters are heartbreakingly three-dimensional, and their relationships are complex.  Soffer’s depictions of love and grief are beautifully rendered.   Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is a novel which relies on its characters, so definitely give this one a try if you enjoy character-driven literary fiction.  The descriptions are gorgeous, too–you can see the apartment, feel the floor beneath your feet, and, most important, smell and taste the food.

Food is how characters relate to one another in this novel.   A dish called masgouf (the national dish of Iraq) is very nearly a character on its own.  All those who love food, cooking, and the way it brings people together will enjoy that part of this novel.

Joanne Harris might be a good readalike for those who enjoyed this book (and vice versa–if you already like Joanne Harris you might like Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots).  Try Chocolat or Five Quarters of the Orange.  Both employ themes of food and family, and Harris has a dense and rewarding writing style.  Five Quarters of the Orange also deals with the complex relationship between mothers and daughters.   Khaled Hosseini might also be a good readalike choice–he has an eloquent style, and Afghanistan is vividly rendered.  His ability to provide a sense of place is wonderful, and his characters and their relationships are very well-drawn.  Try And the Mountains Echoed, his sweeping multi-generational story that follows a family and explores the ties that bind them together.  Though be warned Hosseini’s books contain more violence than these other suggestions.

Last, I’d suggest Muriel Barbery’s lovely novels as readalikes.  If the relationship between Violet and Lorca was your favorite part of Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, you might like the friendship that springs up between Renee and Paloma in The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  And if the food talk was what you responded to, try Barbery’s Gourmet Rhapsody, about a dying food critic trying to capture the memory of the perfect taste.

–Marie

 This post originally appeared on the blog on December 11, 2013

Reading from Home Rerun: Marie’s Reading: ”The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes” by Zach Dundas

great-detectiveThe Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes by Zach Dundas is funny and conversational and passionate and made me fall in love with Holmes and Watson and their many adventures all over again.

Dundas includes a bit of everything, from Arthur Conan Doyle’s biography to real-life walks around London to meetings of the Baker Street Irregulars to interviews with well-regarded fanfiction writers. He talks about all of the theatrical, radio, television, and cinematic versions of the stories right up through Sherlock and Elementary, and makes the point that every generation creates their Sherlock Holmes anew–Holmes is a kind of cultural barometer.

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Best Holmes.

As a fan of literary histories I also appreciated the insights into how Doyle came to write the Sherlock Holmes stories, and where they fit into their contemporary culture (or, as time went on, didn’t fit in so well).  The discussion of the fandom surrounding these characters was enlightening, too.  If a little scary.

(…in that it hits a bit close to home)

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Best Holmes Movie.

In all, this is a glorious romp through all things Holmes and Watson brimming with passion and fun.  Dundas is a wonderfully funny guy, and his conversational style and footnotes make you feel like he’s telling you all that he’s discovered about Sherlock over coffee at a bookstore.  One fan to another.

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Best Holmes’n’Watson.

The book includes Dundas’s personal must-read list of the original stories, and fantastic source notes.  There’s a whole Sherlockian world out there.  Me, I’m going to curl up with my Annotated Sherlock Holmes for a bit.  I’ll enjoy it on a whole new level now.

–Marie

This post originally appeared on the blog on September 19, 2016

Reading From Home

I hope you’re all well and safe and healthy and hunkering on down as much as you can.  I’m going to be replaying some greatest hits here on the blog for a while.  I hope you have a TBR pile to tackle, a loaded Kindle, and/or a bookcase full of old favorites to return to while the library is closed.

Stay tuned.  Stay indoors.  Stay healthy.

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Oh, please, as if this wasn’t the first thing you all thought of, too.

–Marie

Marie’s Reading: “Sag Harbor” by Colson Whitehead

SagHarborNovelBenjamin recalls the summer of 1985 in the black vacation community of Sag Harbor.  That year he was fifteen, he had his first summer job, and he was dealing with upheaval at home.  The novel covers that summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, all the ups and downs and adventures and transformative experiences.

Whitehead’s writing is so textured and evocative, it’s really a joy to read.  His description, whether it’s of a day at the beach, a fistfight, canned soup, the intricacies of a group of friends growing older, or Coke Classic, they’re all so rich and layered.

The story is based on Whitehead’s own experiences, and it shows in the warmth and intimacy and affection of the storytelling.  It’s hilarious, too, and the writing is so beautifully evocative of a very specific time and place.  Whitehead’s got a real gift for detailed observation.

Sag Harbor is a glimpse into a life and lived experience that I’ll never know as a white New Englander, but it’s insight that I really appreciate having.  On top of that it’s just a really great What Happened That Summer narrative with a fantastic narrator and wonderful writing.

–Marie

Halloween Read: “The October Country” by Ray Bradbury

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…that country where it is always turning late in the year.  That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay.  That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faded away from the sun.  That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts.  Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…

A fine collection of deeply creepy tales for those frosty, vaguely melancholy October nights.

There’s a tortured grim reaper in The Scythe, a mysterious (perhaps monstrous?) boarder in The Man Upstairs, a stubborn and funny woman who refuses to die in There Was an Old Woman, an unhappily married couple who take a grisly tour in The Next in Line, and a dog who’s way too loyal in The Emissary.  There are several other stories in this collection as well, but those are the ones that struck me the most.

Bradbury had a talent for finding the chilling in everyday experience, much like Shirley Jackson did.  Grotesqueries abound in these tales, as does paranoia and the bizarre.  These stories are more toward the dark fantasy end of the spectrum, but a few edge into pure Horror.  Bradbury excelled at the short story, a form which is a great vehicle for Horror–no time or words are wasted, images are sharp, and the atmosphere has to be intense.

If you’re after some classic reading this Halloween, give this collection a look!

Marie’s Reading: “All Systems Red” by Martha Wells

all systems redAll Systems Red tells the story of a semi-organic security bot protecting a group of humans who are exploring a planet.  The SecUnit, who calls itself a “Murderbot” (due to its own unfortunate backstory) has hacked its own system so that it can act independently and not suffer punishments.  Most of its independent action consists of watching hours and hours of soap operas on its entertainment feed and trying to avoid interactions with humans.  But when a mysterious force threatens the humans, Murderbot reluctantly goes to help save the day.

I loved the first-person voice of the Murderbot.  It is snarky and funny, but also touching in its discomfort and other-ness.  Over and over again the Murderbot insists it does not care, wants to be left alone, etc., and yet its actions speak to how much it values the humans it sees as its duty.  The fact that Murderbot changes over the course of the story and makes a big decision for itself at the end speaks to its true character.

Wells uses the Murderbot to discuss identity, consciousness, and the definition of humanity, all wrapped up in a neat sci-fi adventure story with a complex and interesting central character.  Her world-building is subtle and puts you right in the middle of the action, without a lot of exposition.

This novella is the first in The Murderbot Diaries series, and I’m really looking forward to the next one!

–Marie

Marie’s Favorites of 2018

Here we are at the end of another year of reading.  2018 was a wonderful year for me–my son was born back in June, and he’s such a sweet kid that he lets his mom keep up with her reading.

Below are my favorite books from the past year.  Click each title to go to the relevant blog post (or the Goodreads page, if I didn’t blog about a particular title).

Marie’s Favorites of 2018

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Jungle of Stone by William Carlsen

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winnifred Watson

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic by Glenn Frankel

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Have happy holidays and here’s to a wonderful 2019!

–Marie

Halloween Read: “Strange Weather” by Joe Hill

strange weather

The four short novels in this collection are weird fiction at its finest–a little bit Horror, a little bit Dark Fantasy, a little bit Science Fiction, all creepy.  If you’re not a “scary book” fan but you still want something dark for the season, Strange Weather might be just the thing.

Snapshot tells the tale of a tattooed man with a Polaroid camera that can steal memories.  Aloft has an almost old-fashioned sci-fi feel to it–it’s about a man in a hot air balloon accident who winds up stranded on a cloud.  Rain is a more contemporary apocalyptic story, with the original idea of the end coming from nails raining down from the sky.

The most realistic story, and thus the most terrifying, is definitely Loaded–it’s an examination of our country’s relationship with guns, and it is one that stays with you for a very long time after you read it.

Every story, each with a different feel, is compelling.  They each pull you right into the action, and you just go with each tale’s flow until the disturbing conclusions.  I love Hill’s descriptive powers and the mood he’s able to create.

Definitely give this collection a try for Halloween!

 

We’ve Been on Hiatus

Hi readers!  The Camden Public Library’s Readers Corner blog will be on hiatus for a few months.  I’ve got an important delivery arriving around the beginning of July and won’t be available to blog.

I wrote these words on June 6th.  My important delivery ended up being expedited and arrived on June 19th, all 5 lb 5 oz of him.  Today is my first day back at the Readers Corner after a long and happy summer.

My apologies for the lack of new content over the past few months.   I have managed to do some reading, as it’s a great activity for when you’re trapped under a napping baby.  And Horror Month is just around the corner, so stay tuned!

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–Marie