Friday, April 17, 2015

The Ones That Didn't Make the Cut

I've been terribly remiss in keeping to a weekly schedule this winter and I know that there's nothing more frustrating to readers than to visit a blog they count on for hot off the presses book news and find that it hasn't been updated. My only excuse is that my life has been more restricted by deadlines in the past four months than when I was working full time. What's wrong with this picture?

I've read thirty-eight books so far this year and have recorded seven reviews for WGCU where my monthly radio program "The Florida Book Page" is now airing once a month. I still have two more reviews to write and record before I leave Florida for the summer - a terrifyingly looming three weeks from now!

You have a huge treat ahead for you this summer when Paula McLain's new novel after "The Paris Wife" comes out. I just sent my glowing review to "Library Journal." If you were a fan of "Out of Africa" then keep your eyes on the lookout for "Circling the Sun," a fictional biography of the aviator Beryl Markham.

So often I read a book that I enjoy but that's it. I can't rave about it but it still may have been a pleasant way to pass my reading time. If I choose not to write about it, I realize that I'm censoring myself a bit. After all, just because it didn't rock me doesn't mean that it wouldn't be just what the doctor ordered for someone else. There is a book for every occasion, correct?

So, as I continue to meet my deadlines over the next couple of weeks and get myself moved to Maryland, I thought I might just give a brief shout out to a few of the books that I've enjoyed lately.

book cover Lydia Millet's "Mermaids in Paradise," is a novel that I listened to while I walked. The reader had just the right cynical attitude for the main character, Deb, who is on her honeymoon on a supposedly deserted, romantic tropical island. One of the problems is that her recently acquired husband is a real chatty cathy. He has never met a stranger, she is an introvert, and he schedules every moment of their time with the new friends they've met at the resort.

While on an afternoon pleasure boat ride Deb and Chip and all their new found friends witness a phenomenon that seems impossible to believe. Mermaids - everywhere. Thankfully one of them has had the foresight to film the bizarre spectacle or who would believe it? Well, as it turns out, plenty of folks would. But not for the right reasons.

What begins as a slapstick, crazy comedy, soon becomes a serious discussion about science, greed, and exploitation.

secular-lifePhil Zuckerman has made quite a name for himself as a spokesperson for a more humanist approach to the world. He is not, as he has been accused, anti-religion. He simply doesn't see one good reason for it. After all, he posits, do you really believe that fear of eternal damnation has ever prevented an evil act? Don't most of us simply live by the golden rule? If you remotely agree then delve into "Living the Secular Life, New Answers to Old Questions.

As a professor of sociology at Pitzer College in California, Zuckerman has studied and written about religion and humanism and their effects on societies for many years. The fact is, no matter how many new churches you see popping up on every street corner, fewer and fewer people are readily identifying as affiliated with organized religion. Some might say that we are devolving as human beings but Zuckerman and many other scholars believe that we may actually be evolving. Wouldn't it be grand if we no longer needed a hierarchical structure to keep us in line but rather, behaved humanely just because it feels good. It does you know.

Don't Call Me BabyBecause Gwendolyn Heasley lives in Naples, Florida, I was given an early reading copy of her young adult book, "Don't Call Me Baby," to peruse for my radio program. I wasn't sure that it would be the type of novel that would appeal to our morning listeners but I could certainly see its potential, especially for librarians and book lovers interested in cross generational literature.

Ms. Heasley writes about two women who earn their livings by blogging about their daughters to the point of obsessiveness. They are very successful at their work. Imogene and her best friend Sage have had every moment of their lives dissected and shared in cyberspace from birth. Now fifteen years old and ready for high school, they have had it! When they are given a school assignment to design and maintain a blog, the girls see the perfect way to get pay back time.

Heasley writes teenagers who all seem a little to good to be true but the subject of her novel still gives us food for thought. Where will the share all/tell all generation end? How much information will finally be seen as TMI and why is it easier to talk to the important people in our lives through the scrim of Twitter or Facebook rather than to look directly into their loving eyes? Great book discussion potential here!

So, tell me, what have you all read and enjoyed lately? I'll soon be reunited with my reading swing which overlooks the Chesapeake. I'll be able to spend hours of uninterrupted reading time there because, as my friend Don reminds me, this is my job. All suggestions are welcome.

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