Spring Ahead…

If I had known this was a sequel/continuation to her book My Name is Mary Sutter, I would have had it on amazon pre-order. As it was I found it as a display, noting a lovely cover and title: Winter Sisters.

Title: Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira

Publisher: Viking February 2018, 415pp

Genre: literature, historical, mystery, suspense

5 stars highly recommended

Author:

Robin Oliveira (BA Russian Literature (1976), registered nurse, former literary agent (MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts 2006)), was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship for a work-in-progress. My Name is Mary Sutter won the 2011 Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction. Originally from Albany NY, she now lives in Seattle, Washington.

Story:

Mary Sutter was an unforgettable character, fiercely passionate as a doctor, intensely loyal to her family and friends, and driven by an independent spirit. Fourteen years have passed and she is still challenging social norms, prejudices and conventions. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Mary is again a central figure, few would have her perseverance and defiance but she shares the story with her niece Elizabeth and mother Amelia. All are needed not just to save the girls physically, but emotionally. They provide a multifaceted, deeply layered view of the era, women’s roles, love and family bonds. They are lucky to have the strong unwavering support of men who understand their sacrifice.

This is a very dark, difficult tale of kidnapping, rape and court proceedings against a 10year old child, which was considered consensual by law at that time (1879). It portrays a society laced with greed, police corruption, social class, bribery and betrayal. It is also a rewarding tale of hope and perseverance. Oliveira knows Albany well and and her detailed research provides rich descriptions of Victorian architecture, commerce, historical detail, even the weather create a powerful backdrop to this complex mystery. The writing is evocative, sensitive and filled with vivid characters. The story is timeless and riveting. I savored the historical detail, was haunted by the conditions of the street women, restricted social climate and horrific rape, found comfort in William and Mary’s relationship and ended determined to continue the fight over 100years later.

This novel can be read as a stand-alone, but don’t miss her other books.

Read on:

Nicola Upson Josephine Tey series, Jacqueline Winspear Maisie Dobbs series

Quotes:

One joy in this somber story is Mary and William’s marriage. “Neither of them could think of a time together when either of them let each other down.” “Theirs was a tenacious love, as solid and true as granite.”

“I will gladly hear what you have to say, Dr. Stipp, but only after I speak to Emma. I do not want to contaminate my impressions with yours.”

“They are not impressions. They are facts.”

“There are facts and then there are alternate facts.”

“That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard anyone say.”

One day, I’m going to write a violin concerto and call it Number One Hundred Thirteen, and Elizabeth will play it” One hundred twelve days since they were taken, that day (113) marked the first day she wasn’t scared when she awoke.

The Chills Continue

Settle old scores – Or promote healing of old wounds?

Title: Old Scores by Will Thomas

Publisher: Minotaur Press (2017) 294 pp

Genre: mysteries, English mystery, historical mystery, detective fiction

5 stars, highly recommended

Author:

Will Thomas (b 1958) writes an award winning Victorian mystery series featuring Cyrus Barker, a Scottish detective or “private enquiry agent,” and his Welsh assistant, Thomas Llewelyn. The Barker/Llewelyn novels are all set in the 1880s with accurate historical events. Martial arts/ combat is featured throughout the series. Thomas has said that Barker is based on characters such as Richard Francis Burton and Edward William Barton-Wright, founder of Bartitsu (which Thomas also studies).

Previously, Thomas wrote essays for Sherlock Holmes society and lectured on crime fiction of the Victorian era. Thomas’ first novel Some Danger Involved was nominated for a Barry Award and a Shamus Award, and won the 2005 Oklahoma Book Award. The Black Hand was nominated for a 2009 Shamus Award. Fatal Enquiry won the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award. He was a librarian with the Tulsa City-County Library System. Thomas enjoys Rex Stout, author of the Nero Wolfe mysteries. His wife, Julia Thomas, recently published her first mystery, The English Boys (2016) followed by Penhale Wood (2017).

Story:

This is the 9th in the series and provides many answers and background to the previous 8 stories. Barker has always been quite mysterious as an unusual private investigator, as well as dangerous, and has been the cornerstone of this developing series. Llewelyn, witty narrator, provides the engaging and entertaining commentary on 19the century Victorian London. Thomas is a fantastic suspense writer, with attention to detail of class, traditions, culture, lore as well as weaving an intriguing tale of betrayal, secrets, honor and love. This is fast paced prose with fascinating suspects, red herrings and a satisfying conclusion which also hints at a continuing story thread. I read it straight through in a night, and then just reread it several months later, still enjoying and savoring the details.

Read on to Laurie King’s Mary Russell series (Mrs Sherlock Holmes). If you like Sherlock Holmes, this is not a clone as so many are. I also recommend Anthony Horowitz’s Sherlock series. I was surprised to learn of his wife’s two books and can recommend those English mysteries too!

Received as an ARC from netgalley and the publishers. Purchased my own copy, to continue my set.

Intriguing historical series!

Title: Iron Water (A Victorian Police Procedural) by Chris NicksonPublisher: Severn House 224pp November 2016

Genre: mystery, thriller fiction, historical, English mystery     4.5+ stars

Author: Chris Nickson (b 1954) is a British novelist, music journalist, and biographer who lived in the United States for 30 years before returning home. As a music journalist, he specialized in world and roots music, writing a regular column for Global Rhythm magazine. He wrote The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to World Music. He has written biographies of celebrities including Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Reeve and the late singer-songwriter John Martyn, Solid Air (ebook in June 2011). His first novel, The Broken Token (2010), was set in Leeds in 1731 followed by Cold Cruel Winter, then The Constant Lovers, The Cruel Fear, At the Dying of the Year and Fair and Tender Ladies: these are The Richard Nottingham novels. Then there are the Laura Benton series which take place in Seattle, the Detective Harper late Victorian (1890s) series also in Leeds, and other one-off novels and non-fiction. The audiobook of The Broken Token was named as one of the Audiobooks of the Year for 2012 by The Independent on Sunday.

Story line: I was very excited to discover a new author! This book looked interesting and is a genre I enjoy, but after the first 25 pages I settled in for a wonderful read. And then I discovered this is actually the fourth in a series, which I now must read in order. Gods of Gold is the first volume, followed by Two Bronze Pennies and Skin Like silver. All of his books have been added to my list. I love discovering a new (to me) author and enjoy sharing. Thanks to Netgalley for the chance to read Nickson. What a pleasure to enjoy an intricate plot, wonderful detailed characters, accurate interesting historical detail for an enjoyable afternoon read. These days stories often set your teeth on edge, you encounter graphic sex or violence when you’re not expecting it, editing leaves something to be desired, or…. this didn’t disappoint on any level.

We catch up with Detective Tom Harper witnessing a demonstration of a new naval weapon, the torpedo, in Waterloo Lake (aka Iron Water). Unfortunately a body is dislodged and then dredging operations unearth a women’s leg in the River Aire. Every era and town seems to have a violent criminal underworld. His wife Annabelle is also a suffragist and we see many societal changes including class structure, women’s issues, children. Leeds is a grim dirty industrial city (newly designated) and it’s obvious I have to read his other historical novels of this city. What a pleasure to add him to my winter reading. I eagerly await the next installment 2017, after I finish the rest of the series!

Www.chrisnickson.co.uk

Read on:

Late Victorian detectives: Canadian Det Murdoch (Maureen Jennings), Mary Russell (Laurie King)

Quotes:

But until Mary was born he hadn’t known how loudly his heart could sing. 

Detective Sergeant Ash he was now, promoted the year before and worth his weight in diamonds. He was a natural detective, a man who made connections well, who could think on his feet. Harper had pushed for him to be given his stripes; he deserved them.

He’d been a copper for fourteen years and never had a corpse emerge from the water before. Now there were two in a single morning.

‘Detective Inspector Harper, Leeds City Police.’ He still wasn’t used to the new name of the force.

The file on Archer was almost six inches thick, years of papers piled one on top of the other. The rumour was that he’d committed his first murder when he was just ten; a shopkeeper who clipped him round the ear when he came in and demanded money. No one had ever appeared in court for the death. He’d been arrested and questioned more often than Harper had enjoyed hot dinners.

‘You work out what the truth is,’ Harper told him. ‘That’s what the job is all about.’

‘Ready?’ Harper asked. ‘As I’ll ever be, sir,’ Ash answered. ‘I made out my will a few months ago.’

The sergeant smiled under his moustache. ‘I doubt Charlie Gilmore’s come within shouting distance of the truth since he learned how to talk. But there might have been a few places where he wasn’t lying too much.’

Six dead now. He couldn’t remember another case with so many murdered. And now? There was still one man out there. Morley’s killer. The last man standing. And he didn’t know who that might be.


Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. Thank you!

Another Forgotten Wife

Title: The Other Einstein by Marie BenedictPublisher: Sourcebook Landmarks (Oct 2016), 304 pp

Genre: fiction, historical fiction

3 to 3.5 stars

Author:  From her bio “Once a New York City lawyer, Marie Benedict had long dreamed about a fantastical job unraveling the larger mysteries of the past as an archaeologist or historian — before she tried her hand at writing. While drafting her first book, she realized that she could excavate the possible truths lurking in history through fiction, and has done so in THE OTHER EINSTEIN, the story of Mileva Maric, Albert Einstein’s first wife and a physicist herself. Writing as Heather Terrell, Marie also authored The Chrysalis, The Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare. She is a graduate of Boston College and the Boston University School of Law, and lives in Pittsburgh with her family.”

Story line:  

This is a novel about Albert Einstein’s first wife, Mileva (Mitzi) Maric (1875-1948). She was born into a wealthy Serbian family and was extraordinarily talented in physics and mathematics; she attended all boys schools and programs where women were restricted, excluded) encouraged by her father. Einstein, a socially awkward geek promised her equality and seduced her. After their first child dies, he marries her (1903). His ‘miracle’ year was 1905 when he produced several papers he had been developing. Let’s just categorically state no man/woman works in isolation and several of his theories depend on brilliant mathematics (her forte). Two children later he starts an affair with his first cousin Elsa (marrying her (1914) as soon as the divorce was finalized, 5 years after separation). Yes Einstein appears to be something of a scoundrel, born up in several other accounts, but I was more astonished at the transformation of the brilliant mind with the potentially astounding career into a meek housewife. Moral of the story? Don’t get pregnant until you are well into your career. I have taught classes on women in science, and she has been an example (her test papers are brilliant). There is not a lot of science here, indeed, it almost is a romance novel. I enjoyed her friends and her initial outlook. The rigors of social and intellectual society were detailed and contrasted, with most women frustratingly dependent on beauty standards and husband potential. And while it was interesting and thought provoking, I thought there was too much artistic license. It is a slow paced ambitious story with reasonable characterization; It serves to remind women what is still at stake in today’s society. It left me depressed.
Quotes:

Turn the knob and push the door open, I told myself. You can do this. Crossing this threshold is nothing new. You have passed over the supposedly insurmountable divide between male and female in countless classrooms.

“Be bold,” Papa would whisper in our native, little-used Serbian tongue. “You are a mudra glava. A wise one. In your heart beats the blood of bandits, our brigand Slavic ancestors who used any means to get their due. Go get your due, Mitza. Go get your due.”

Was he truly so self-focused that he believed I withdrew my affections first? That my self-protection and the recent strengthening of my resolve happened before he cheated on me and bled me dry of my scientific ambitions?

Since he’d unilaterally removed my name from those papers, thereby putting the actual award out of my reach, the least I deserved was the money. 

As I took on the roles of his lover, the mother of his children, his wife, and his secret scientific partner, I allowed him to trim away all the parts that didn’t fit his mold.

I have reclaimed my intellect and my scientific passion by tutoring promising young female scientists.

Read on:

Nonfiction: Albert Einstein/Mileva Marić: The Love Letters, edited by Jürgen Renn and Robert Schulmann; Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance by Dennis Overbye; In Albert’s Shadow: The Life and Letters of Mileva Marić, Einstein’s First Wife, by Milan Popovic; Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson; and Einstein’s Wife: Work and Marriage in the Lives of Five Great TwentiethCentury Women, by Andrea Gabor. 

Memoir: Jane Hawkins Traveling to Infinity

Fiction: Paula McLain The Paris Wife, Lynn Cullen Mrs Poe


Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley.

Ancient Forests

Title: The Trees by Ali ShawPublisher: Bloomsbury 2016 496pp

Genre: fantasy, dystopian, fiction, English literature,

4.5+ stars

Author:

Ali Shaw graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English literature. He has worked as a bookseller and at the Bodleian library, Oxford. His first book The Girl With the Glass Feet won the Desmond Elliott Prize and was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel and longlisted for the Guardian First Novel.

Story line:

When a review says: The Trees does for trees what Hitchcock did for birds. You’ve been warned. (Irish Times) you are compelled to read this. Especially if the author is Shaw. His writing is amazing, evocative, enthralling and quite unsettling at times. The rich poetic descriptions reveal a multilayered story with self discovery, friendships, survival, justice, folklore and fairytale fantastical elements. The magic is both light and dark. I loved his surprising first book, The Girl with Glass Feet. Shaw’s books deserve a much wider audience for the clever mastery of language alone. Add the original characters and you have yourself a new author to follow.

What would you do if giant ancient forests were created overnight, destroying civilization as you know it? How would you adapt? This book is quite thought provoking, as well as haunting. I found the questions of what is wild, and how do humans relate to and abuse the environment even more important to have recognized and discussed now. There is great character development in these unlikely protagonists as they go in search of their loved ones and learn to cope with the new normal. Their actions have consequences, but we find hope in the strangest places. And the journey is ultimately what is important. It’s rather epic. I loved that the forester was going to have all the answers. 

Highly recommend. This book will remain long after you finish, and also make for an interesting book club discussion.

Read On:

Of Bees and Mist (Erick Setiawan), The Winter’s Tale(Mark Helprin), Perdita (Hilary Scharper), The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey), Gossip from the Forest (Sara Maitland), Uprooted (Naomi Novik) or if you like Neil Gaiman, Gregory Maguire

Quotes:

The forest burst full-grown out of the earth, in booming upper-cuts of trees and bludgeoning branches. It rammed through roads and houses alike, shattering bricks and exploding glass. It sounded like a thousand trains derailing at once, squeallings and jarrings and bucklings all lost beneath the thunderclaps of broken concrete and the cacophony of a billion hissing leaves. Up surged the tree trunks, up in a storm of foliage and lashing twigs that spread and spread and then, at a great height, stopped.

In a blink of an eye, the world had changed, There came an elastic aftershock of creaks and groans and then, softly softly chinking shower of rubbled cement. Branches stilled amid the wreckage they had made. Leaves calmed and trunks stood serene. Where, not a minute before, a suburb had lain, there was no only woodland standing among ruins ….”

Received as an ARC ebook from NetGalley, thank you!

BOOK RELEASE: ON THE REBOUND BY JIM CANGANY

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ON THE REBOUND IS NOW AVAILABLE!

Author:  Jim Cangany
Release Day:  January 26, 2016
Genre: Sports Romance
Publisher:  Penner Publishing


 

SYNOPSIS

FINAL_AMAZON-APPLE-EBOOK-300x464On The Rebound is a sweet, sports romance set on the campus of fictional Irving University. It’s a story about second chances and features a women’s college basketball team. Here’s a teaser for you.

After he’s caught in a grade fixing scandal, men’s college basketball coach Greg Miller is thrown a lifeline when an old friend offers him a job with the small-school Irving University women’s team.

Academic Advisor Ciara Monaghan knows first-hand the heartbreak and havoc a cheating man can wreak. She wants nothing more than to protect the University’s reputation by seeing to it that Greg’s stay at Irving is short.

The last thing either of them wants is the attraction they can’t deny. Can a struggling member of the basketball team bring them together to see how wonderful a second chance at life, and love, can be?


 

ABOUT JIM CANGANY

JimPhotoJim Cangany was forty pages into his first manuscript when he realized it was a romance. He went with it and has great joy writing sweet, contemporary love stories. A lover of things that go fast, when Jim’s not writing, you can probably find him checking into the latest from IndyCar or pro bike racing. He lives in Indianapolis with his saint of a wife Nancy, his sons Seamus and Aidan, and the princess of the house, kitty cat Maria.

Visit him: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Tumbler


BUY NOW AT YOUR FAVORITE RETAILER!

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THIS SATURDAY AT ROCHESTER PUBLIC LIBRARY!

RPL SAT

Did you miss C.H. Armstrong’s official launch party earlier this week?  No worries — Rochester Public Library has you covered!

Join us THIS SATURDAY, January 23rd, at 3PM in the auditorium to meet Rochester author, C.H. Armstrong.  She’ll do a short presentation and reading from her new novel, The Edge of Nowhere, and will sign copies of her book (copies will be available for purchase).

For more information on C.H. Armstrong and her novel, follow this link.

In the meantime, check out the Official Video Trailer for The Edge of Nowhere, and read a synopsis.

 

FULL RESOLUTION EON

The Edge of Nowhere
Inspired by Actual Events
Synopsis

The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.

No time for tea!

Title: Deanna Raybourn A Curious Beginning (Sept 2015)Publisher: Penguin NAL: Signet Romance 352 pp

Genre: mystery, historical mystery, fiction, Victorian suspense

4+ stars

Author:

Deanna Raybourn is well known for her Lady Julia Grey series, beginning with Silent in the Grave (2007), which have been nominated for and won numerous awards. It was recently (April 2015) optioned for UK television series. (There are 6 books and several novellas). She has several other stand alone novels which are entertaining and richly detailed. A Curious Beginning features Miss Veronica Speedwell and is the start of a new series (the second is already at the editors). Raybourn also writes an interesting blog and is now on tour. 

Story Line:

Veronica Speedwell has a passion for lepidoptery (not moths!), and created an unusual career capitalizing on the Victorian obsession with collecting specimens. With the death of her guardian she is thrown into a mystery that appears to involve her unknown parents. Orphaned at a few months, she was cared for by two maiden aunts who themselves carried secrets. Break ins and murder find her in 1887 London where she puts her intelligence and talents into solving these crimes. She shares this adventure with the rather mysterious natural historian, explorer and scholar Stoker, aka the Honourable Ravelstoke Templeton-Vane.  

Speedwell is a rather modern female Sherlock Holmes but is modeled after Victorian female explorers who were independent and foreword thinking. As is Stoker. There is clever, witty dialogue and black humour which create a fast paced fun story. Charming descriptions, a hint of romance, never a dull moment with attempted abductions, robbery, murder, secrets, general mayhem, contribute to a neat read. I thoroughly enjoyed this, as all her other books, and look forward to the next installment.

Read On:

To the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters (still one of the best!)

To Mary Russell series (Mrs Sherlock Holmes) by Laurie R King

To Lady Jane Grey series by Deanna Raybourn 

Quotes:

Opening line:

I stared into the open grave and wished I could summon a tear.

…a figure at the lych-gate, tall and beautifully erect, with the sort of posture a gentleman of aristocratic breeding or enthusiastic besting at excellent schools.

…in every village no matter how peaceful and pretty, there was always someone to wag a tongue and pass judgement.

Overtime, I developed a set of rules from which I never deviated. Although I permitted myself dalliances during my travels, I never engaged in flirtations in England…foreign bachelors were my trophies, collected for their charm and good looks as well as their attentive manners. They were holiday romances, light and insubstantial.

There ought to have been a frisson of foreknowledge, a shiver of precognition that the choice to accompany the baron would prove the single most significant decision of my entire life.

Miss Speedwell, I have hiked the length of the Amazon River. I have been accosted by native tribes and shot twice. I have nearly met my death by quicksand and snakebite, poisoned arrow and one particularly fiendish jaguar. And I have never, until this moment, been quite so surprised by anything as I am by you.

Are you familiar with the intrepid lady travelers? Women like Isabella Bird and Marianne North?

In my experience Americans were very friendly and very fond of their firearms.

You cannot discount a theory simply because it does not suit your prejudices, he reminded me. That is bad science.

I could sooner influence the sun to set in the east, Sir Hugo. She is entirely her own woman.

Read as an ARC from Netgalley. Thank you!  
Veronica (common name Speedwell) is the largest plant genus in the family Plantaginaceae (500 sp). It is edible and nutritious, used as tea for asthma. You might know it as the weed which out competes lawn grass.

A Real Page Turner

Title: All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer
Publisher: Minotaur Books, Macmillan (March 10, 2015)
303 pp
Genre: espionage, mystery, spy novel, thriller, intrigue, political thriller
4 Stars ****
Author: Olen Steinhauer is an award winning American author of espionage fiction. His Milo Weaver trilogy (The Tourist (2009), Nearest Exit (2010) and An American Spy (2012)) were NYTimes best sellers and among my favourite spy novels. The Tourist has been optioned by George Clooney, which raised his profile and increased his readership. His first novel, Bridge of Sighs, (2007) was nominated for many awards, and continues to be an excellent place to start his works (it’s also a series, aka Ruthenia or Yalta Boulevard). I get excited with each new publication, and make time to read these, generally in one sitting. How can you wait for the denouement? His addictive writing and characters are engaging and complex. The books are well crafted with multilayered plots. Interestingly, this novel had its origins in another literary work, a narrative poem by Christopher Reid called The Song of Lunch, a BBC Masterpiece production Steinhauer saw in 2010 (starring Emma Thompson and Alan Reichman. I want them to appear in this book/movie!).
He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. All the Old Knives is his 9th novel and a stand alone. His interviews are also fascinating. “A writer should write the book he would want to read.” “The real pleasure of reviewing has been discovering new voices.” And “If a writer’s central subject is human nature than politics is beside the point.”
Story line:
This is an unusual spy thriller in that all the action takes place over dinner in Carmel, CA. Flashbacks slowly reveal multiple suspects and unreliable memories. The story is complicated by betrayal and guilt of ex lovers, not just ex CIA field officers. Many glasses of wine, exquisite food do not blunt the deception, betrayals, loss of trust and the complicated, complex, manipulating world of spies.
We know Muslim terrorists blew up a plane in Vienna 6 years ago, killing everyone. This also ended the relationship between two agents Celia Harrison and Henry Pelham. She left the service and lives a very different life (wife of a GM executive Drew Favreau, campaigning for Romney). Henry is still looking for the mole responsible for the disastrous day that changed his life, assigned to the European Desk. The story and the people evolve, but they are caught in the past. Their voices narrate different chapters expressing disparate views, each are master manipulators, to each other and the reader. I had a hard time liking either character, in this all too real novel. (And still think he should have been called Harry, but why?!) There is no black and white in the world.
This is still an intense, taut, quick read. Where the ending makes you rethink everything. The finale was not unexpected, with foreshadowing and subtle, well placed clues. Who did you believe? Would you survive the night? You might have to reread it. I can’t.
This is a good introduction to his work and you will find yourself drawn into his European theatre.
Read on:
Alan Furst, John LeCarre, Eric Ambler, Len Deighton, Joseph Conrad
If you like Charles McCarry’s The Miernik Dossier
Watch:
MI5 or Spooks and The Song of Lunch
Quotes:
Another day, another delay.
I keep my phone locked away, after 15 hours flying 6000 miles, then suffering through the mass psychosis of American passport control, the precise time of my arrival feels unimportant.
Besides never having to look her in the eyes would certainly make my job, and my life, a lot easier.
Perhaps strangers are our best friends.
I’ve known him my whole Austrian decade and he uses sighs the way others crack knuckles or chain smoke.
I’m entirely air-conditioned now.
Romantic love is cute. Passion is just a little game.

Read as an ARC from NetGalley

Pictures from an Institution

Julie Schumacher Dear Committee Members

Dear Reader,
Buy the book, give it as a gift, loan out your copy, order it from the library. This epistolary novel is a laugh out loud tale not just for academics, but all walks of life. You may spend an enjoyable afternoon reading, but I preferred short bits, perhaps 4 or five letters at a time. (It’s only 200 pages, but best if not digested all at once). If you have any connection to the Ivory Towers you will recognize the biting satire, social criticism, and frustrating quagmire of politics and funding. It could easily be a diary.

The letters are quite clever, and reveal much about the writer, as an academic, as a husband, lover, teacher, at once observant while equally oblivious, generous but also petty, happy but unfulfilled. One third of the letters are letters of recommendation, which in and of themselves reveal a great deal of society and expectations today. Sadly. I kept reading me to see how much damage he could do…. As a whole, it has a bitter edge, is a rather lacerating commentary on academic life but also full of human foibles, entertaining yet poignant. And lost. No one writes letters anymore; we have several generations that cannot compose an email let alone a letter. In retrospect, it was funny while I was reading it.

But I hope you will pick up this book and enjoy this lighthearted but thought provoking read.

Sincerely,
A Reader
3.5 stars (note- this book also doesn’t work well as an audio book- I barely glanced at who they were addressed to, but the addresses are properly read out, delaying the amusement of the letter.)

Read on
For other epistolary novels: Jonathan Miles Dear American Airlines (2008), Maria Semple Where’d you go Bernadette? (2012) Joey Corneau Overqualified (2009).
Fans of David Foster Wallace should like this.
Reminiscent (campus, academic, literary lives) of Richard Russo Straight Man (1997, who also favorably reviewed Miles), Sam Lipsyte HomeLand (2004), Jincy Willet’s Winner of the National Book Award (2002, recommended by Nancy Pearl).

Read as an ARC ebook from NETGALLY