I enjoy books in which writers take on challenging topics, particularly when the topics are timely or provide some perspective on how things have or haven’t changed. The Man Dance is a book like that, tracing the coming of age of an artistic boy, George, from his school days to the cusp of manhood in 1960s Britain. [Read more…]
The synopsis of Split-Level by Sande Boritz Berger promised some suspenseful drama and raised a lot of curiosity for me as a reader. The story is easy to get into and despite it being a quick read with a somewhat fantastical twist, it has stayed with me. [Read more…]
I enjoyed Right after the Weather from the start. Carol Anshaw doesn’t waste time in developing the main character, Cate, and giving readers a sense of her life in Chicago: her love life, her work life, her home life. She’s barely making ends meet as a set designer, but her existence is made rich by friendships, a rescue dog, and the prospect of a solid romantic relationship that might help alleviate her loneliness and sense of aimless personal drifting. [Read more…]
Earlier this week, an article by Gregory Thomas, travel editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, highlighted a recent analysis by economic consulting firm EcoNorthwest that put a dollar amount on the revenue that might be generated by draining the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and reopening Hetch Hetchy Valley to tourism. The economic potential—calculated to eventually top $100 billion—is suggested to be yet one more argument for the restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley to “a more natural state — of the variety that stirred John Muir’s soul a century ago.” The EcoNorthwest study was commissioned by Restore Hetch Hetchy. [Read more…]
Although you won’t yet find binge-read in Merriam-Webster, I think it’s just as legitimate a thing as binge-watching, or it has become so for me since discovering the novels of Anita Shreve earlier this year. I honestly can’t even recall what led me to the first title of hers except that I was fresh from a double helping of Aminatta Forna (a real feast!) and was likely looking around on the literary prize lists for a new female author to read.
Once I regained my equilibrium after a breast cancer diagnosis in February, I stopped taking on spare-time editing work and decided to allocate more free time to enjoying whatever life I had left on earth. And to fill the dreary time that passes during chemotherapy—when many of my pleasurable outdoor activities ceased or became severely curtailed—I decided to read (and write) voraciously. [Read more…]
For example, I’m shopping at Winco, which is fine. It’s employee owned and I’m glad I have money for food and the like. I know my life is privileged despite how depressed I feel all the time. But as I round the corner at the shelf-stable non-dairy milks, there sits a huge pile of low-grade, generic dog food in massive bags on a pallet. Plain white bags, with DOG FOOD stamped on the front in huge letters. There’s a drawing of the dog on the front, and even he looks super depressed, as if he knows his days are numbered because of malnutrition. And I just think, why even continue living in a world where some poor dog has to eat this junk day in and day out? [Read more…]
With the exception of my local library’s holdings (online and off) and the catalogs of certain publishers, almost any list of book titles is accompanied by that ominous set of five stars. I say ominous because as a hopeful fiction writer, those stars seem to be the source of both exhilaration and despair.
I spend more time than is constructive poring over reviews for my favorite books, books I’m browsing, books I’m curious about, books that have won awards—you get the idea. As with anything that tries to make sense of public opinion and taste, this five-star review system isn’t exactly the best guide for choosing a good book. Unfortunately, it has achieved a strong influence over not just the books people read but also the foods, appliances, clothes, and whatever else they buy for their everyday lives. [Read more…]
My forthcoming novel Ripening the Times began as a 2012 NaNoWriMo project. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is celebrated by the personal challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month—the approximately length of a novel. I had started writing a novel in 2001—a manuscript that languished throughout the significant changes and upheaval in my life in the intervening years. The NaNoWriMo organizers suggest that rather than picking up an old project, writers should begin a new manuscript with a fresh idea. Start at zero words and write something new. [Read more…]
Late winter is a wonderful time in the San Joaquin Valley: leafy winter crops are in seasonal full force, and citrus fruits are in ripe abundance, their trees scenting the air with the blossoms of next year’s crop. I’m fortunate to have Meyer lemon and navel orange trees on the property I rent, and there are still the fruits of both to enjoy even as the fragrance of their pale blooms fills the house through windows and doors that can stand open on the spring-like days we’re having now. [Read more…]
I get a weekly CSA box of organic fruits and vegetables from though Ooooby, which is administrated here by Fresno Food Commons. Because California’s San Joaquin Valley has mild winters, crops grow here year round, and you can eat seasonally yet lavishly in great variety. A recent box contained a vegetable called crown of brussels, which as you might suspect, is the top of a brussels sprout plant. [Read more…]
On the heels of the publication success of his first novel, Orange Rain (Trébol Press, 2014), Jan Smitowicz released the self-published Redwood Falls this past August. After reading the sample on Amazon, I immediately bought the ebook. Smitowicz begins to build suspense from the first page of this novel, and his vivid description of a groggy, late-night departure on a trip to we’re-not-sure-where evokes compelling images and a strong desire to understand the story that is unfolding. To me, the writing style departs slightly from that in his debut novel — more descriptive, more evocative, more sensual. [Read more…]