Dear Committee Members by Julia Schumacher: A Review

This book was recommended by a colleague who has served on many search committees and has received many letters of recommendation for applicants, none of which could possibly be as clever or creative as the ones that the author strings together to create a novel.

It is a small book, and I checked it out from the Alvin Public Library.  I read it in a few hours during my private 24 hour Reading Marathon. The book is funny, sardonic, and too much like real life in academia.

The author has won awards for another novel, ALA Notable Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. She has written a short story collection and “five novels for young readers.” Schumacher explains she teaches at the University of Minnesota and has written many letters of recommendation.

Advertisements

What I am Reading, What I am Watching, and What I have to Read Next

What I am currently reading:

The After Party set in 1950’s Houston assigned for 3rd Tuesday Book Club at the Alvin library. I bought a copy. I am only 1/5 of the way in. It is due Tues the 20th.

Beloved Mess an inspirational book. Borrowed from church library.  Ordered because of my request.   Finished but copying pages and writing down quotes from famous “religious” people.

Passenger  It turned up in a box of donations for my LFL (Little Free Library) left at the back door.  My husband read it and said, “I think you will like this book.  I do.  I am half way through.

Two back issues of my New Yorker magazine.

One back issue of AARP magazine

The daily Houston Chronicle newspaper

What I am currently watching:
America’s Got Talent Finale  (watching  at this moment while I type during commercials and during clips I’ve seen.)  This has been some season!  How they will choose is unfathomable to me.

The Young and the Restless (about three episodes behind) I do not believe Adam died in the explosion, just for the record.

Anxiously awaiting the first episode of the new season of The Big Bang.  I’ve never missed an episode!

What I am about to read next:

Fellow’s new novel checked out from the Alvin Library (Downton Abbey author)

Three cozy mysteries a cousin sent which arrived in today’s mail

The last book of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

Sunday’s Sunday School quarterly for next Sunday’s lesson

A set of reading quizzes

CONCLUSION:

I am an eclectic reader!

 

 

Stephen King’s Song of Susanna

During my own little 24 Reading Marathon (See earlier posts), I resumed reading King’s Song of Susanna, Book Six of The Dark Tower series (one  more to go!) This is a journey that has literally taken years, but one that has been totally worth the time and effort.

From the Calla and the wolves of book five to New York City in 1999 is a big leap, and the tet  of gunslingers get there by various “doors”, but eventually the ka tet are  all in the same time and place, although they have not encountered each other yet by the end of the book. What they find in 1999 proves to be both interesting and action-filled.  Characters from other books make cameo appearances, and old stories affect and merge with current developments. Horror and gore abound.  Strangest of all, I have never had the experience of an author writing himself into the plot as a character in the novel before!  Leave it to King’s imagination and creativity.

Great storytelling.  Great humor. Great suspense. Great adventure. And, Great dialogue.

 

JUST IN TIME FOR HALLOWEEN

The Thirteen Days of Halloween published by Scholastic is a counting book closely patterned on “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and is the perfect grandchild-gift for a little one.  The illustrations parody Tim Burton, and, as in “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” repetition is built in.  By the time parent or grandparent and child have read the book a few times, the child will be able to count to 13! The little witchy-demon (good demon) girl has large, innocent eyes as she leads her various ghouls like werewolves and vampires and witches through their madcap, fun march through the gloriously colored pages and reaches the final countdown to Halloween night when all the goblins and beasties come out to play. It can be ordered through Scholastic or through the title at Barnes and Noble or from Amazon.

A second offering for any season is classic children’s author Eva Ibbetson’s Which Witch, a chapter book, guaranteed to make children and adults alike laugh out loud (or at least chuckle). It is a worthy book, although not as well known as Ibbotson’s The Secret of Platform 13.

In this story, Arriman Podcaster, an unusual baby who grew up to become a famous Wizard, is waiting for his replacement so that he can retire. Harrington Hall, his magnificent, totally creepy manor house is guarded by the Wizard Watcher ( a four legged creature who talks, has a tail, and vaguely resembles a sea lion–a big one).  The Watcher is watching for the New Wizard predicted by the gypsy  fortuneteller to “come down the road.”

When this fails to happen, Arriman decides to marry and produce an heir to take his place.  He instigates a Miss America style pageant of witches, offering himself and his great Hall to the winner.  An abundance of witches is found in the area, complete with warts and weird animal familiars as well as Belladonna who is (horrors!) a white witch.  She speaks with animals, heals wounds by magic (or white witchcraft) and produces bunny rabbits and begonias instead of frogs, lizards, and other slimy things with her spells.

The book is wickedly humorous (pun intended)!

It is predictable enough to feel comfortable, but has enough twists and turns to keep the reader reading right up until the very end.

 

 

Perspective

A friend recently e-mailed me and mentioned that she had re-read Earth Abides, an apocalyptic novel, which she had recommended to me a couple of years ago, and I loved. She said it was strange, but on the second reading, she wasn’t as impressed with it as she was upon her first reading in her younger years.  We agreed that perhaps having read many more apocalyptic novels, just living life longer, having more life experiences, discussing books with others, and seeing movies changed our perspective toward “things”

I told her the perhaps, as Thomas Woolf said, you really can’t go home again: childhood homes seem smaller, first elementary schools look old, are entirely updated, rebuilt, or torn down. Maybe the same holds true for books.

I remember reading Catcher in the Rye in high school when it first came out, and no! it was not assigned.  I borrowed a friend’s paperback and kept it hidden from the teacher. I thought, “You go, Holden! Tell your parents ‘what for’!” At the age of forty in an Adolescent Literature class in graduate school, I wanted to turn Holden over my knee and paddle him.

All that said, it’s funny isn’t it how perspective can slant perception.

REVIEW: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis (2016)

A friend from book club told me her daughter had written her first novel, and as a “collector”of debut novels, I was immediately interested.  I had to wait a couple of months for the book to come out for sale, but the novel was well worth waiting for!

It is the story of the Barbizon , a “proper” and safe hotel, a “suitable” residence for young women searching for fame, careers, and husbands in New York City.  The Dollhouse is set in (and chapters alternate between) the 1950’s and 2016.  It is the  story of Darby (and Sam and Esme, her new friends) in 1950.  Darby is a student at The Gibbs Secretarial School, a “plain girl” hosteled on then same floor of the Glamorous Ford Agency models.

In 2016, Rose, also a Barbizon girl, is employed as a journalist and has a tinge of scandal of her own. Her lover, Griffin, who has political aspirations and Jason, a photographer who helps Rose investigate Darby’s scandal and mystery, also appear in the story.

But, most of all it is the story of The Barbizon .

For me, this was a fascinating read, a real page turner which reveals its mystery  like the peeling of the layers of the cliched onion. I would give this fantastic novel a 5 out of 5 rating .

My Own Little Reading Marathon Report Part II

Reading Log for 24 hours of the marathon

Sunday, Sept. 4th

Noon:Marathon begins:

12:00 p.m. Continued reading Song of Susanna, Book 6 of The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King. I’ve never heard of a writer writing himself into a book as a character!

12:35 Houston Chronicle Sunday paper

1:08 snack break

1:10 Back to Song of Susanna

2:00 changed pace by reading children’s chapter book, Which Witch by Eva Ibbotson finished  (delightful/adults will love too)

3:00 Housework “break”

3:30  Sunday School quarterly and lesson notes

4:00 Sunday Houston Chronicle

5:00 Song of Susanna

5:30 Supper break

6:00 Song of Susanna (finished) Can’t wait for Book 7/Book 6 leaves you hanging (on purpose)

7:00 Break to read and reply to book blogs

9:00 Started Library Book, Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

10:00 Sleep Break

Labor Day

1:30 a.m. Resumed Dear Committee Members

2:30 a.m. Coffee and snack Break

2:45 Began Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

4:15 Resumed reading Dear Committee Member

5:00 Finished Dear Committee Member and took ten minute break

5:10 Resumed reading The Dollhouse. (GREAT read, wanted to keep turning pages)

7:30 break and Breakfast (prepared by husband/more coffee)

8:00 Monday morning Houston Chronicle (more coffee)

9:00 Sleep break (coffee didn’t work)

11:00 a.m. New Yorker (Sept. 5th issue) short story “A Gentleman’s Game”

11:20 Lunch Break

12:00 noon End of Marathon

Later that afternoon and evening, Monday, I finished The Family (a book bought from Deadalus Bookstore in NY that has been sitting around unfinished for at least six months) and finished The Dollhouse.

I felt the Marathon was a complete success because my primary goal was to whittle down my TBR stack, and I did. Plus, I finished my library book way before it was due and can now take the non-fiction The Family to Half-Price Books next trip.