Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Meg Mitchell Moore answers our Top Five

Meg Mitchell Moore is the author of the novels The Arrivals and So Far Away.  She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and their three children. She will be reading at Water Street Bookstore tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 30th) at 7pm. Until then, you can find her @mmitchmoore.

1. What's on your nightstand right now?
Lamp. Remote control for ceiling fan. One copy of the galley of So Far Away (that's embarrassing! I don't sit around reading it, I think I have it there to give to someone). Lotion. Kindle. The following books: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Catching Fire (read the first and have been meaning to get to this), Left Neglected, and book of letters from Emily Dickinson to Susan Huntington Dickinson. The last item makes me look a bit more cerebral than I actually am. My 9-year-old and recently took a trip together to Amherst for a project she was working on, I bought this book, thinking I would read a little each night and get back in touch with my grad school self. Haven't read a single letter. But I want to!

2. How do you write?

If I have a whole day (which happens twice a week, I still have a preschooler) it goes like this: workout (early a.m. if possible), then kids off, then writing, then other tasks or errands. Like most parents, I am too dependent on other people’s schedules to wing it. I always write to music, always. So Far Away required a lot of Mumford & Sons and Josh Ritter. My work in progress is more of Bruce Springsteen/The Avett Brothers. I often use Pandora.

3.  Name the first time or moment you realized you were a writer. 

Seventh grade, one hundred and eighty years ago. Can't remember the teacher's name but I remember the classroom. We had to write some sort of story, I don't remember the assignment, and then read them aloud. I wrote some terrible macabre thing about a hit-and-run accident on Halloween, I have no idea why. But I do remember reading it aloud and having people respond to it. I remember the pride I felt in that. I remember thinking, "Hey, I think I'm actually good at this!"

4.  What are you working on now?

It's tentatively titled The Captain’s Daughter, and in it the daughter of a lobsterman from a small fishing village in Maine returns to the town she thought she escaped when her father’s boat goes missing, and confronts her past as well as some uncomfortable truths about her present.

5.  Favorite recent find? 

I am very recently addicted to Downtown Abbey. Really addicted. I think about it a lot when I'm not watching it. Also, the book The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, and a Japanese restaurant in Walnut Creek, California, where my family and I were a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How much do I love The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller?


Let me start by saying that summarizing this book makes it sound like a crazy soap opera. Okay, here it is quick, dirty, and not at all sufficient to judge the book by: daughter whisked away to private school, stumbles onto secret society, gets embroiled in a mystery involving her science teacher, the woman from the local historical society who mysteriously confides in her, and the girl who used to live in the bedroom she is currently living in, who oh by the way was the headmaster's albino daughter.  So while that all sounds a little crazy, it's not. To be sure, there's a lot going on, but Miller juggles it all like a circus performer--you can't stop watching and you have no idea how she does it. And here's one thing that really is crazy: Miller's writing. It's crazy good.

Read the first paragraph of the book (you'll see): 

The days were already growing shorter, prodding us toward summer's end, when my mother and I left Boston for the sequestered town of Nye. She hummed to the radio and I sat strapped into the passenger seat, like a convict being shuttled between prisons. In the last six months, my Beacon Hill neighborhood had shrunk to the size of a single room: Dr. Patrick's office, with its greasy magazines and hieroglyphic water stains. The vast landscape that opened before us now wasn't any more comforting. The mountainous peaks resembled teeth. The road stretched between them like a black tongue. And here we were, in our small vehicle, speeding toward that awful mouth. 

Good right? Iris Dupont is in some ways your typical 14 year old, drawn like a magnet to hyperbole and her own inner monologue and just as fiercely away from the cloying presence of her parents. But she also has an imaginary friend. He's kind of her only friend. And he's famed journalist Edward R. Murrow. She talks to him. And he talks back. 

It was easy to conjure Murrow. I thought about him for a minute and then there he was, standing on Lily's pink carpet in a Savile Row suit and his signature red suspenders. The glowing eye of his cigarette pierced the dark. It winked at me like it knew something I didn't.
"Iris." Murrow's face hovered in the dark, close enough for me to smell his cigarette breath. "I know you're unhappy about being here. But think of Nye as a challenge. Have you ever known me to rest on my laurels?" 

Even Edward R. Murrow sometimes spoke in cliches, which only proves how ubiquitous and insidious they are.  

I just love Iris. Her dogged pursuit of the truth is the only thing that's keeping her hanging on as loneliness and confusion swirl around her. That pursuit is something in Iris that I really latched on to (and is something that I think a lot of young or not-so-young-anymore girls would, too). At times, Iris is floundering, treading water, just trying to keep her head above the waves. That she solves the mysteries of Mariana Academy in the end is almost beside the point; as a former young girl myself, I understand the chief importance of solving your own mysteries, and Iris does too by the end of Gadfly.  

Don't miss Jennifer Miller's appearance at Water Street Bookstore on Thursday, May 10th at 7pm.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Too-Good Tuesday 5/1/12

We're all doing a little happy dance for new books over here (though to be perfectly honest, I'm more of an internal, mental happy dance-doer than a physical happy dance-doer, but trust me, it's getting crazy up in there). Here are a few of the new ones that are getting us psyched:

New in hardcover: 

The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger (I loved this novel! Jhumpa Lahiri for the next generation!)
An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer (see Ms. Percer here this Thursday 5/3)
Insurgent by Veronica Roth (follow-up to YA/crossover fave Divergent)
Trapeze by Simon Mawer (remember his last novel, The Glass Room?) 
The Passage of Power: The Years of LBJ by Robert
End This Depression Now! by Paul Krugman

Now in Paperback:

Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson
The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore (see Ms. Moore at WSB 5/30)
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close