Five years of being a widow has not been easy for Julia Alden, but through it all she has had her teenage daughter, Gwen. Perhaps the girl is spoiled but they've grown close and, after all, what mother wouldn't do anything for her child? Francesca Segal tries to answer that question in her witty and wise novel The Awkward Age.
Somewhat to her surprise Julia has fallen head over heels in love with James Fuller, an American obstetrician and father of seventeen-year-old Nathan who may be a bit over confident and enjoys teasing Gwen. If that were all there wouldn't be much of a problem but Gwen thoroughly dislikes James and wants her mother back all to herself. Believing in a happy blended family James and Nathan move into Julia's home. Sound the alarm this is the beginning of an all out civil war.
Neither Gwen nor Nathan like the idea of this new family that has been formed without their consent, but why did they start sleeping together? Was it anger, revenge, what? During a trip to Boston Julia notices that the young ones are being nicer to each other. But she is really taken aback when Gwen haughtily announces "Nathan and I are together." Very much together as a pregnancy ensues. This would seem to throw James and Julia's relationship out the window. Do they not have a right to love or must they sacrifice everything for their children?
Francesca Segal's probing novel raises many a question so appropriate for this day and time. It well may cause many of us to rethink our definition of family. I found myself listening to The Awkward Age a second time so as not to miss a nuance or phrase from this award winning writer.
Jayne Entwistle delivers an excellent narration.
Friday, May 26, 2017
Sunday, May 21, 2017
While Nick Mason is the hero of this tense, compelling tale he is not a hero in the text book sense. For those who may have missed the lauded series debut Mason is a man who has served five years of a 25 year to life sentence for a killing he did not commit. Embittered and eager to get out to see his 9-Year-old daughter again he agrees to do whatever Darius Cole asks - even murder.
Exit Strategy opens with Mason being given an almost impossible task. He is told to infiltrate the top secret federal witness protection program, find the three men who put Cole behind bars and kill them so they cannot testify against Cole in a federal court trial that has Cole appealing his conviction. Now, if the only punishment for Mason failing to do this were Mason's life that would be one thing. But the stakes are even higher - the lives of Mason's ex-wife and daughter.
Mason is pushed to the limit having to deal with not only Cole's henchmen but also a frightening Irish assassin. To muddy the waters even further Mason is not only the hunter but the hunted - the man he replaced has escaped the witness protection program and intends to kill Mason.
While listeners are gasping for breath they learn that Cole's Chicago enterprise is merely a branch of an international crime syndicate headed by a mastermind who is wanted by governments around the world. This major domo has plans for Mason.
Narrator Ray Porter has taken home many an Earphones Award and listeners will immediately know why as he hooks them with an opening sentence and doesn't let go until the conclusion.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
A must for art aficionados David Hockney: Current is a magnificent volume chronicling the works created by this inimitable artist over the past ten years. Surely he is as many will say the most influential British artist of the past half century. His talents seem boundless as he has evidenced expertise in drawing, oil painting, print marking, set design, photocollage, watercolor. charcoal and digital drawing.
At the age of 26 Hockney had his first one-man show and the plaudits followed. October of 2006 saw one of the largest displays of Hockney's portraiture work at the National Portrait Gallery. This included 150 paintings, drawings, prints, sketchbooks and photocollages. October of 2013 saw David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. A list of Hockney showings is endless. However, no need for us to stand in line as the recently released David Hockney: Current is a landmark book published by Thames & Hudson. The gorgeous volume (328 pages with 2,036 illustration) holds texts by Simon Maidment, Li Nowen, Martin Gayford, Barbara Bolt, Edith Devaney and a foreword by Tony Ellwood. While these essays are fascinating for me frosting on the cake was a Q&A with Hockney, the master himself.
This is a book you will treasure and return to again and again.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Immigration, immigrants are certainly in the news and on our minds today, but timeliness is only one reason to read Lisa Ko’s beautifully written debut. It is a moving tale of love and loyalty told by Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, and her American born son, Deming or Daniel.
Polly works at a nail salon and shares a Bronx apartment with her boyfriend, Leon, and Leon’s sister and her son, 10-year-old Michael, who is Deming’s pal. And then one day Polly doesn’t come home - she has simply disappeared from the nail salon. Days passed and she didn’t return. When Deming checks the apartment he finds that she has taken nothing with her save for her keys, her wallet and her handbag. He hopes that she will come back, but that is not to be.
When weeks go by and Deming is given to a “new family,” as if there could be one. His new “parents” are white suburban college teachers, Kay and Peter. They name him Daniel. As the years pass he fails in college, tries to become a musician and learns that his vanished mother is still alive.
At this point the narrative is taken over by Polly who describes what it was like to travel to America as an unmarried pregnant teenager, the crowded living quarters which were all she could find, and the low-paying jobs which again were all she could find.
With “The Leavers” Ko has given us an unforgettable tale of love and loyalty that is incredibly moving and sensitively written. She is an author to remember.
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Friday, May 12, 2017
Few authors are sufficiently talented 0r brave enough to create a main character that is over the top compelling and thoroughly unappealing. Yet that is precisely what Nordic writer Jo Nesbo has done with his alcoholic, demon possessed, sometimes suicidal Oslo police detective Harry Hole. Don't believe me? Nesbo is the recipient of the Glass Key for the best Nordic crime novel and his books have sold thirty-three million copies in fifty languages. Basing my opinion on his Police (2013) and now with the 11th installment in his crime series, The Thirst, this author shows no sign of slowing down.
Now we find a sober and content (for him) Harry is a lecturer at Police College. Formerly sleep deprived and angst ridden he now awakens happy, married for three years to the love of his life, Rakel. It's a state of bliss unfamiliar to him. He promises Rakel that their uncomplicated life will always be so, but knowing Harry and Nesbo that was not to be.
There is a serial killer on the loose and his MO matches that of the one killer he was unable to stop. The murderer cuts the throats of his victims very much like a vampire would. The first victim was a lawyer a woman in her mid-thirties who specialized in rape cases. Her neck was covered with puncture marks - the wounds had tiny fragments of rust and paint in them. She had been a dedicated Tinder follower. The investigating team is stumped. Then a mere two days later there is another murder, a woman of the same age who suffered the same same puncture marks. She, too, was a Tinder follower.
Nearing desperation the chief of police turns to the best murder detective ha has ever known, but Harry is no longer on the force. He has promised the woman he loves and himself that he will not be involved with the police force again. He well knows the risks involved if he does. but Harry also believes that the murderer is the one killer who once got away.
John Lee delivers an outstanding reading of this can't-stop-listening-to tale.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge) brings us another stunning story exploring human emotions and people we come to care about. For frosting on this estimable cake it is read by actress Kimberly Farr.
Lucy Barton is no longer a resident of Amgash, Illinois. Now she is in fact a well known writer which only fuels the resentment of her jealous sister, Vicky. Strout is an expert at revealing the uncertainties hidden behind a person's bad behavior. Unfortunately there are quite a few in Amgash who may pay lip service to Lucy's success but inwardly are envious. The locals may well remember the dirt poor Barton family that were treated as pariahs and outcasts. This treatment has scarred Lucy' brother, Pete, and Vicky.
Strout expertly, beautifully explores the lives of the townsfolk in a series of vignettes. There is Tommy Guptill who showed Lucy kindness when she was but a girl. He still occasionally visits the Barton house to check on Pete who is still damaged by the past. Tommy is unaware that in all likelihood Pete's father caused the fire that ruined Tommy's dairy farm. Tommy is an almost too kind, generous man who looks upon the fire as a spiritual lesson and has lived by that belief ever since even though the blaze reduced him to being a school janitor.
There is Patty Nicely who returns kindness with cruelty. Her sister, Linda, would be generously described as nasty. As if that were not enough she is saddled with a predatory husband, Jay. These and others do their best to spread and perpetuate the word that Lucy "thinks she is better than the rest of us."
As this perspicacious author explores the lives of the citizenry we are reminded of the healing power of forgiveness, reconciliation and treated to one more unforgettable story from the remarkable Strout.
Don't miss it!