Friday, February 29, 2008

The Opposite of Hate

"Read me a book and I'll be entertained for a day, teach me to read and I'll have a nervous breakdown when I realize I can't read every book I see." There are more books in my life than there is time. I try to make up for that by taking a book with me wherever I go- movies (while standing in line), grocery stores (makes it hard to steer the cart), sporting events (look out for that home run ball), family parties (find a quiet corner and ignore everyone), and even church (where better to read a religious book?). If a book doesn't appeal to me quickly, I put it aside and find another. I don't have time to waste reading bad books.

Recently I had a short conversation with an author to whom I admitted, her book was displayed in the store, but I had not read it. Short story even shorter- I got a copy of "The Opposite of Love" by Julie Buxbaum, and promised her I would read it.

After reading a few pages I stopped. "Oh, man," I moaned. "This is chick lit!" Now, before I receive complaints from my readers, let me say, there is nothing wrong with chick lit. Many people enjoy this type of book- I don't. I occasionally enjoy a good "chick flick" (Notting Hill, You've Got Mail, etc.), but don't tell anyone. I don't want my masculine image destroyed.

So, what was I to do? I have a stack of books on my bedside table, on my desk at home, and behind my desk at work that I need to read. Do I forge ahead and finish the book regardless, or do I put it aside and lie to the author- "Nice book, good job, well written..."

First, I had promised to read it and second, I hate lying to authors about their books, so I continued reading. Only a few more pages in, my opinion changed, this wasn't "chick lit", and I finished the book in three days (keep in mind I am usually reading 3-4 books at a time or I would have had it finished in a day or two).

Emily Haxby is lost. She breaks up with her boyfriend of two years because she thinks he is going to propose (she's right, he was about to). Her job at a prestigious law firm is far less than satisfying, especially after one of the partners makes unwanted sexual advances. Her mother died when she was fourteen and she's never had an open relationship with her father (lying to each other about life is just what they do). The one person in life who has always been there for Emily is her Grandpa Jack and she is losing him to Alzheimer's. It seems the only way she can turn is inward, which sends her on a downward emotional spiral.

The appeal of "The Opposite of Love" is that most readers can identify with Emily Haxby in one way or another. I did. We all have those times when we feel lost and frustrated with life and Julie captures those emotions perfectly in Emily's character. How we choose to deal with being lost, either by staying lost or by finding ourselves again, is the story of life and is ultimately Emily's story. Nothing ever works out perfectly, loose ends are not all tied up nicely, and life may or may not go where we think it will.

Julie Buxbaum has written a wonderfully honest character surrounded by a host of quirky supporting characters that made what could have been just more "chick lit" into a refreshing look at what happens when we get lost and how we find ourselves.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Author Signing | Pilar Pobil

On Wednesday, February 13th Pilar Pobil was at the store signing copies of her book, "My Kitchen Table: Sketches From My Life" from our very own University of Utah Press. She is a wonderful lady whom we had a fantastic time talking with. Many people came by and spoke with her, got signed copies of her book, and even had their pictures taken with her.

Pilar is a highly talented Utah artist whose artwork is featured in her book alongside the fascinating story of her life and art. "My Kitchen Table" takes us along for a journey with her through Spain, Mallorca, Mexico and Salt Lake. It reveals not only who Pilar is, but illuminates her inspirations for her art.

We had a wonderful time with Pilar, and hope to do so again in the near future.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

How long, has this been going on?

I've had several of my readers question the Sacred Shelf of 10. Primarily the questions have been- when did I add a particular book to my Shelf, how long have these books been on my Shelf, and how often do they change?

Let me answer the last question first. The Shelf changes when I find a book that I know I want to read again and again. The new book must have made a tremendous impact on me, more so than at least one of the books that is currently on the Sacred Shelf (that impact may simply be personal appeal. I, in no way, make claim to any literary superiority).

So, here is the list, once again in no particular order of favorites (I do have one or two of these that would be at the top of the list) but this time, I am showing the date when a book was added to the Sacred Shelf. I am including the year only (sorry I can't remember the month and day, but I'm getting old and the memory is starting to go).

* Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (1996)
* The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1992)
* Booked to Die by John Dunning (1998)
* The Meaning of Night: A Confession by Michael Cox (2006)
* Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1995)
* Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder (1992)
* Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood by Robyn Scott (2008)
* The Bookman’s Wake by John Dunning (1999)
* An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (1998)
* On Writing by Stephen King (2000)

There have been, at my last and best count, a total of 21 books that have been on the Sacred Shelf at one time or another. Another time perhaps, I'll post the entire list.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Foggy Day in London Town... or A Dusty Day in Bethlehem

Wherever I go in the world, however far I may stray, I always return to my first love. She is both decorous and demure, beautiful and harsh, enticing and repelling. She satisfies my intelligence and my base instincts, nourishes and starves me. I have attempted a trial separation without success. A divorce is out of the question. I, my friends, am a mystery reader.

Those of you who have read about my Sacred Shelf of 10 know that about 50% of the books are true mystery (either literary or genre). Another ten to twenty percent may arguably be called a mystery.

There are mysteries that instantly draw me in and other that take a while to warm to. Mysteries set in locations where I have been, or are familiar with, are those to which I gravitate the most. For example, a favorite location is Seattle, and thus my collection of Lou Boldt mysteries by Ridley Pearson and the J.P. Beaumont mysteries by J.A. Jance. Many mysteries I read are set in either the United States or England (although I've never been, I plan to go someday soon), with a smattering of others set in Europe or the Far East. One setting that has never fully caught my interest are mysteries set in the Middle East (though the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters, set in Egypt, are highly engaging). Even when I was reading the Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell mysteries by Laurie King, the hardest book of the series to get through was "O, Jerusalem." I don't understand the lack of appeal, but to me the Middle East seems less mysterious than, say, a foggy London evening or a rainy Seattle night.

Yet, still I try to read all mysteries that I can. If I can't find something to intrigue me quickly and drag me deep into the depths of a story, I will put a book down and move on. On to the next! Honestly, this is what I expected to do when I picked up a copy of "The Collaborator of Bethlehem" by Matt Beynon Rees. It is not what happened.

Rees writes this novel with a knowledge of the area, its culture, politics and economics, having been the former Jerusalem bureau chief for Time magazine. This intimate knowledge is what gives the book its instant intrigue. You feel as if you are walking down the dusty streets with the protagonist, Omar Yussef, a school teacher who is forced into the role of investigator in an attempt to save the life of a former student accused of collaboration with the Israelis in the murder of a leader of the Palestinian Martyrs Brigade.

Where at least a sense of law and order appear in many mysteries, this book leaves you looking for order where there is none and law is only what the bully with the biggest gun in town says it is. Though Omar is confronted and threatened and an attempt on his life is made, he will stop only when he finds the truth. That search for truth will take him where friends may truly be enemies and knowing who to trust is impossible.

I finished this book with a greater appreciation for mysteries set in the Middle East. I may not search them out, but should one come along, I will certainly give it a chance to prove itself.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Update to the Sacred Shelf of 10

As my constant readers know, I have in my home library a special shelf, a shelf dedicated to those books I most enjoy reading, and the only books I ever reread- the Sacred Shelf of 10. So many books, so little time- I have time to read a book once, then move on. If a book is not on the Sacred Shelf of 10, it is shelved with the rest of my collection, not to be read again, but collected for collections sake (it goes to my bibliophilic predilection, so sue me).

Several nights ago, I found myself picking up a book that I had only recently finished and began to read it once again. When I found myself 50 pages into the book, I stopped to contemplate what I was doing. This violated my own personal rules about books. Now, I realized I had a decision to make. I was rereading this book because I enjoyed it immensely, enough to move it to the Sacred Shelf; but now I must remove one book from the shelf. Those are the rules- one goes on, one comes off.

So, my friends, the decision has been made. It was difficult. I did some soul searching (meaning I stared at the list for about five minutes). Off comes Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier and on goes Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood by Robyn Scott. You will notice that it is only the second non-fiction book on my Sacred Shelf, but there it belongs. If you have questions as to why, see my blog of several days ago about "Twenty Chickens."

Here again is the Sacred Shelf of 10 in no particular order:

* Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
* The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
* Booked to Die by John Dunning
* The Meaning of Night: A Confession by Michael Cox
* Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
* Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder
* Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood by Robyn Scott
* The Bookman’s Wake by John Dunning
* An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
* On Writing by Stephen King