D.E.A.R. – Unsolicited Books and Wins

Do you remember D.E.A.R? At my elementary school that meant “Drop Everything And Read,” something we typically did for 10 or 15 minutes every day. Best part of my day, really. As my TBR and Library piles are battling for supremacy and trying to sneak in around the review copies who have staked out places on my calendar, I’m thinking back to the simpler days of D.E.A.R., when I believed I had time to get to any book I wanted. And that, of course, got me fantasizing about a world where I really could just Drop Everything And Read for more than just 15 minutes a day.

After you’ve been blogging about books for a little while, you tend to end up on some mailing lists and receive unsolicited books. Now, some of these books don’t appeal in the least, but others look really fabulous.Then there are all the book giveaways on various blogs and other websites, of which I’ve won a reasonable number. Unfortunately, it isn’t that often that I have time to get to any of these books: copies sent to me for review and library books tend to take precedent. Here are the unsolicited books and contest wins I would love to read if I could just Drop Everything And Read.

The Lute Player & Eleanor the Queen by Norah Lofts

A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein

The Resurrectionist by Jack O’Connell

Ferris Beach by Jill McCorkle

New World Monkeys by Nancy Mauro

I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

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The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris by Leila Marouane

A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth

The Russian Dream Book of Color and Flight by Gina Ocsher

Old Filth & The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman

Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs by Heather Lende

Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick

What do you think? Anything on this list I need to get to sooner rather than later?

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Oh, D.E.A.R!: BEA Edition!

Do you remember D.E.A.R? At my elementary school that meant “Drop Everything And Read,” something we typically did for 10 or 15 minutes every day. Best part of my day, really. As my TBR and Library piles are battling for supremacy and trying to sneak in around the review copies who have staked out places on my calendar, I’m thinking back to the simpler days of D.E.A.R., when I believed I had time to get to any book I wanted. And that, of course, got me fantasizing about a world where I really could just Drop Everything And Read for more than just 15 minutes a day.

Do you know what happens when you bring 67 new books into your house in one week? You go CRAZY trying to figure out when to read them all! I still haven’t read a single book from my last D.E.A.R. post in April, but what is really on my radar right now are all the books I brought home from BEA. Obviously I want to read all of them, or I wouldn’t have picked them up (curse my eclectic reading tastes!), but a girl has got to prioritize. Here are the ones I am most looking forward to, sorted by release date and with the product descriptions from the publishers:

The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell – Harper, June 1, 2010

What happens when two New Yorkers (one an ex–drag queen) do the unthinkable: start over, have a herd of kids, and get a little dirty?

The Bucolic Plague is tart and sweet, touching and laugh out loud funny, a story about approaching middle age, being in a long-term relationship, realizing the city no longer feeds you in the same way it used to, and finding new depths of love and commitment wherever you live.

Find out in this riotous and moving true tale of goats, mud, and a centuries-old mansion in rustic upstate New York—the new memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, author of the New York Times bestseller I Am Not Myself These Days. A happy series of accidents and a doughnut-laden escape upstate take Josh and his partner, Brent, to the doorstep of the magnificent (and fabulously for sale) Beekman Mansion. One hour and one tour later, they have begun their transformation from uptight urbanites into the two-hundred-year-old-mansion-owning Beekman Boys.

Suddenly, Josh—a full-time New Yorker with a successful advertising career—and Brent are weekend farmers, surrounded by nature’s bounty and an eclectic cast: roosters who double as a wedding cover band; Bubby, the bionic cat; and a herd of eighty-eight goats, courtesy of their new caretaker, Farmer John. And soon, a fledgling business, born of a gift of handmade goat-milk soap, blossoms into a brand, Beekman 1802.

I secretly (well, not so much anymore, now that I’m putting it on the internet) want to keep chickens. I want to have fresh eggs and know what the chickens that laid them ate. I also want to have a vegetable garden, and maybe enlist said chickens to eat the bugs out of it. Win-win! Now that you know that about me, I don’t think you’ll be too surprised that I can’t wait to get my hot little hands on “The Bucolic Plague.” Plus, I adore wordplay, so I’d read it for the title alone!

Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky – Harper Perennial, June 22, 2010

“Bad Marie” is the story of Marie, tall, voluptuous, beautiful, thirty years old, and fresh from six years in prison for being an accessory to murder and armed robbery. The only job Marie can get on the outside is as a nanny for her childhood friend Ellen Kendall, an upwardly mobile Manhattan executive whose mother employed Marie’s mother as a housekeeper. After Marie moves in with Ellen, Ellen’s angelic baby Caitlin, and Ellen’s husband, a very attractive French novelist named Benoit Doniel, things get complicated, and almost before she knows what she’s doing, Marie has absconded to Paris with both baby and husband. On the run and out of her depth, Marie will travel to distant shores and experience the highs and lows of foreign culture, lawless living, and motherhood as she figures out how to be an adult; how deeply she can love; and, what it truly means to be bad.

Part of the reason that I’m really looking forward to this is that Erica from Harper Perennial seems SUPER excited about it, beyond just ‘this is our book so I am paid to be excited about it.’ I think we have some fairly similar reading tastes, so I can’t wait to get to it.

Innocent Until Interrogated by Gary L. Stuart – University of Arizona Press, July 27, 2010

On a sweltering August morning, a woman walked into a Buddhist temple near Phoenix and discovered the most horrific crime in Arizona history. Nine Buddhist temple members–six of them monks committed to lives of non-violence–lay dead in a pool of blood, shot execution style. The massive manhunt that followed turned up no leads until a tip from a psychiatric patient led to the arrest of five suspects. Each initially denied their involvement in the crime, yet one by one, under intense interrogation, they confessed.

Soon after, all five men recanted, saying their confessions had been coerced. One was freed after providing an alibi, but the remaining suspects–dubbed “The Tucson Four” by the media–remained in custody even though no physical evidence linked them to the crime.

Seven weeks later, investigators discovered–almost by chance–physical evidence that implicated two entirely new suspects. The Tucson Four were finally freed on November 22 after two teenage boys confessed to the crime, yet troubling questions remained. Why were confessions forced out of innocent suspects? Why and how did legal authorities build a case without evidence? And, ultimately, how did so much go so wrong?

In this first book-length treatment of the Buddhist Temple Massacre, Gary L. Stuart explores the unspeakable crime, the inexplicable confessions, and the troubling behavior of police officials. Stuart’s impeccable research for the book included a review of the complete legal records of the case, an examination of all the physical evidence, a survey of three years of print and broadcast news, and more than fifty personal interviews related to the case. Like In Cold Blood, and The Executioner’s Song, Innocent Until Interrogated is a riveting read that provides not only a striking account of the crime and the investigation but also a disturbing look at the American justice system at its very worst.

This sounds like a fascinating case study about the reliability of coerced confessions. I was chatting up the lady from the University of Arizona Press and she was very excited about it. Her excitement was infectious and now I can’t wait to get to it.

The Gendarme by Mark Mustian – Amy Einhorn/Putnam, September 2, 2010

To those around him, Emmett Conn is a ninety-two-year-old man on the verge of senility. But what becomes frighteningly clear to Emmett is that the sudden, realistic dreams he is having are memories of events he, and many others, have denied or purposely forgotten. The Gendarme is a unique love story that explores the power of memory- and the ability of people, individually and collectively, to forget. Depicting how love can transcend nationalities and politics, how racism creates divisions where none truly exist, and how the human spirit fights to survive even in the face of hopelessness, this is a transcendent novel.

An Amy Einhorn book, ‘nuf said. Plus, check out the cover! Isn’t it stunning???

Stranger Here Below by Joyce Hinnefeld – Unbridled Books, September 28, 2010

In 1961, when Amazing Grace Jansen, a firecracker from Appalachia, meets Mary Elizabeth Cox, the daughter of a Black southern preacher, at Kentucky s Berea College, they already carry the scars and traces of their mothers troubles. Poor and single, Maze s mother has had to raise her daughter alone and fight to keep a roof over their heads. Mary Elizabeth’s mother has carried a shattering grief throughout her life, a loss so great that it has disabled her and isolated her stern husband and her brilliant, talented daughter. The caution this has scored into Mary Elizabeth has made her defensive and too private and limited her ambitions, despite her gifts as a musician. But Maze s earthy fearlessness might be enough to carry them both forward toward lives lived bravely in an angry world that changes by the day. Both of them are drawn to the enigmatic Georginea Ward, an aging idealist who taught at Berea sixty years ago, fell in love with a black man, and suddenly found herself renamed as a sister in a tiny Shaker community. Sister Georgia believes in discipline and simplicity, yes. But, more important, her faith is rooted in fairness and the long reach of unconditional love. This is a novel about three generations of women and the love that makes families where none can be expected.

I have heard fabulous things about how gorgeous Hinnefeld’s writing is, but haven’t yet had the chance to experience it. This time I can read it early and bask in the beauty of her writing!

The Wrong Blood by Manuel de Lope – Other Press, September 28, 2010

In the Basque Country in northern Spain, just before the Civil War, three men in dinner suits stop for a drink at a bar before continuing on their way to a wedding. Their trip is interrupted when their leader, the wealthy Don Leopoldo, has a stroke in the restroom.This event, bizarre and undignified though it is, begins to weave together the lives of two remarkable women: the bride, the beautiful and distinguished Isabel Cruces, and María Antonia Etxarri, the bar owner’s adolescent daughter. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, María Antonia is raped and Isabel’s newlywed husband, Captain Julen Herraiz, is shot. Both women find themselves violently altered, alone, and pregnant. A crippled but wise local doctor is the only witness to the mysterious, silent agreement these women conclude in the loneliness and desperation of their mutual suffering. Many years later, a young student, grandson to Isabel, returns to the scene of the events to spend an innocent summer studying for law exams. As he goes about his work, he unwittingly awakens the ghosts haunting both María Antonia and the doctor, and through their memories the passionate stories of the past unfurl before the reader.

I’m totally fascinated by the Basque Country and want to read more and more and more about it, so this seems like a no-brainer. Add to this the fact that Michelle from RiverRun Bookstore was raving about it, and it is on my must-read list.

The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent – Reagan Arthur Books, November 8, 2010

This is the prequel to “The Heretic’s Daughter,” which I loved. PLUS, it is actually about the dad who, it was rumored, served under Oliver Cromwell. That, to me, is even more interesting than accusations of witchcraft, so I can’t wait. Funny, because about a week before BEA, someone was lamenting the lack of historical fiction about Oliver Cromwell. Now, I’m not sure how prominently he figures in this, but let me just say, voila!

Matched by Ally Condie – Dutton Juvenile, November 30, 2010

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life sheÕs destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life sheÕs known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

I love me some YA dystopian novels, and this one has been getting a lot of buzz. We’ll have to see if I can wait until November to read it.

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale – Twelve, February 2, 2011

Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno’s ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting. But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys — and most affecting love stories — in recent literature. Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and amazingly accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human — to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.

Evidently there’s some monkey lovin’ in this book. I’m a bit hesitant about that, honestly, but incredibly curious, particularly because this was one of the books chosen in the the Editor’s Buzz panel.

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And the most coveted book I didn’t actually manage to get a copy of?

Ape House by Sara Gruen – Spiegel & Grau, September 7, 2010

Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants has become one of the most beloved and bestselling novels of our time. Now Gruen has moved from a circus elephant to family of bonobo apes. When the apes are kidnapped from a language laboratory, their mysterious appearance on a reality TV show calls into question our assumptions about these animals who share 99.4% of our DNA.

A devoted animal lover, Gruen has had a life-long fascination with human-ape discourse, and a particular interest in Bonobo apes, who share 99.4% of our DNA. She has studied linguistics and a system of lexigrams in order to communicate with apes, and is one of the few visitors who has been allowed access to the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, where the apes have come to love her. In bringing her experience and research to bear on this novel, she opens the animal world to us as few novelists have done.

Ape House is a riveting, funny, compassionate, and, finally, deeply moving new novel that secures Sara Gruen’s place as a master storyteller who allows us to see ourselves as we never have before.

I know, I know, two books about monkeys. But I loved “Water for Elephants” and this one was getting a ton of buzz at the show. I didn’t get a copy, but I’ll definitely be reading it when it comes out!

By the way, if anyone feels the urge to make me a button for this series, you’ll have my undying love! Maybe a deer reading?

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