SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: INTROS/TEASERS — CLEANS UP NICELY — SEPT. 17

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teacups for teaser tuesdays

 

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Today’s featured read is one I won from Gilion, at Rose City Reads. The book, Cleans Up Nicely, by Linda Dahl, is the story of the hard-edged decadent art scene in the 1970s.

 

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Intro:  Her destination, that summer of 1977, is a luxury apartment building, upper Fifth Avenue, a slice of New York life completely alien to her.  After the doorman confirms she’s expected and nods her toward the elevators, Erica crosses a sumptuous lobby tastefully decorated with white leather couches and stainless steel tables covered with lavish flower arrangements.  She is shaking.  She awkwardly recites the all-purpose, three-line mantra that Addie McC. has assured her will always help get her through any situation.  In the paneled elevator, she rides to the floor below the penthouse, where Addie McC. ushers her into an apartment with yet more expanses of white; it feels like entering a thirties movie set—there’s even a French bulldog to go with the expensive view of Central Park.

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Teaser:  Leaving his building stoned only on caffeine, Erica stumbled and reeled as if she were drunk.  She caught a bus, transferred to another, sat with her eyes tightly shut and willed herself not to think of him.  And to her surprise, she was successful.  (p. 125)

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Amazon Blurb:  When twenty-something artist Erica Mason moves from laid-back Mexico to Manhattan in the mid-1970s, she finds a hard-edged, decadent, and radically evolving art scene.

Peppered with characters who could only come from the latter days of the turn-on-and-drop-out ’60s in then-crumbling New York (a spaced-out drummer who’s completely given up on using or making money, a radical feminist who glues animal furs to her paintings of vaginas, and icons in the making like Patti Smith), Erica’s New York is fast-moving, funny, and heartrending just like the city itself. Ultimately, her rite of passage is not only a love affair with art, men, alcohol, drugs, and music in the swirl that was the downtown scene in a radically evolving era in New York, but also a resurrection from addiction and self-delusion.

More than the study of a celebrated period of artistic expression, Cleans Up Nicely is the story of one gifted young woman’s path from self-destruction to a hard-won self-knowledge that opens up a whole new world for her and helps her claim the self-respect that has long eluded her.

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I am eagerly anticipating plunging into this book, a tale that spotlights a long-ago time that means youth for some of us.  What do you think of the opening?  Would you keep reading?

 

THE 1960’S: CAUGHT BETWEEN REPRESSION & REVOLUTION — A REVIEW & Q & A

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They met in 1960s Pasadena, CA, at a time when everything was in flux. The cultural revolution was about to change the lives of American women, and young women coming-of-age during those years were caught between the repression of old and the revolution ahead. The lines were blurred and the rules were unclear.

But Rebecca Madden and Alex Carrington hadn’t yet reached the point of being able to articulate how everything was changing around them, nor were they aware enough at that point–in their early teens–to even know anything other than that they didn’t want to become their mothers.

Autobiography of Us: A Novel is narrated by Rebecca, who tells the story as if she is addressing someone not in the scenes: one of her offspring, perhaps. We don’t find out who she is narrating the story to until the very last chapters.

The friendship between Rebecca and Alex seemed out of balance from Day One. Alex took control, and because of her recklessness, her brashness, not to mention her life of privilege, she seemed to exert an undue influence on Rebecca. Lest one see Rebecca as the victim, however, she did tend to be complicit in this lopsided arrangement. I sensed that Rebecca needed Alex desperately–to help her move beyond her isolated existence. Alex also needed to have someone admire and look up to her–Rebecca’s role.

During their college years, the friendship continues, but new layers and expectations change the dynamic between them. Therefore, it is not that surprising that something happens during their senior year at a wedding between some friends. A betrayal that changes everything.

Was Alex complicit in these events? Did she somehow manipulate the situation? Afterwards, how was Rebecca affected by it all, and what lasting consequences changed her life from then on? And will the breach between Rebecca and Alex remain, or will they find a way to mend it?

While at times I really despised Alex and her manipulations, I also could see the vulnerabilities behind her tough facade. And Rebecca’s own inability to verbalize her needs and her tendency to block out reality was frustrating.

In the end, as the two women once again seemingly connect, a shocking scene leads to unexpected and disturbing life-changing events. These events, like the two women, seemed to symbolize the societal changes of the times, with each of them representing one-half of a dichotomy: women on the verge of revolution. Five stars.

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Q & A with the Author:

A Conversation with Aria Beth Sloss about
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF US
—from Autobiography of Us

A Conversation with Aria Beth Sloss about
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF US
—from Autobiography of Us
1. In a recent interview about the novel with Publishers Weekly, you mention that the book is about a
group of women “caught between two eras.” What interested you about this group of women? How did
you come to write about them?
At a certain age I became aware that my mother was older than my friends’ mothers (I’m the youngest of three by six and nine years). Because of a margin of no more than a few years, everything about her experience as a young woman differed from theirs. She didn’t protest Vietnam; she didn’t go to Woodstock: in short, she didn’t match the vision of American youth during the 1960’s I’d pieced together from my friends’ parents’ photographs and stories. As I got older, I became fascinated by the idea that there was an entire pocket of women history had passed over. My mother’s generation was born late enough to glimpse opportunities for women beyond marriage and motherhood, but they were also, cruelly, born too early to benefit from second wave feminism and the changes that swept the country in the late 1960’s on into the 1970’s. By the time leaders like Gloria Steinem and Germaine Greer appeared on the horizon (not to mention NOW and the Equal Rights Amendment), it was too late: my mother and her friends were married with children, settled into lives that turned out to look very much like their own mothers’ lives. So much changed over the course of that one little decade. All it took was graduating college a few years earlier, and the world into which you entered was a very
different one.
2. How did the story for your book originate? You’ve mentioned that you used your mother’s life as inspiration—how personal was the endeavor of writing this book? Did you learn anything about your
mother in the process?
Autobiography originally grew out of that same curiosity about my mother, who was raised in Pasadena during roughly the same time frame as the book’s main characters. Though I grew up in Boston, my family flew to California every year to spend time with my maternal grandparents, so from a very young age I knew Pasadena as the place where my mother had grown up. I think it must come as a shock to all children, that moment when you realize your parents were once young. Suddenly, they’re people. With that peoplehood comes a past. I could say something nobler drove me, but the truth is that I started this book – a book which explores women coming of age during the era in which my mother came of age – out of sheer frustration with what I perceived as the limitations facing the young women of my own era. In many ways, Autobiography is less about my mother than it is about me.
3. You capture amazingly vivid details of the time and essence of 1960s Pasadena, California including:  how people dressed, what they ate, how they interacted socially, their worries and joys, the highlights in the news, and the social practices. What kind of research did you do for AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF US?  Did anything surprise you?
I used two types of research while writing the book. One involved looking up news headlines and double checking dates, making sure I had all the facts down right – what time did the sun set in May of 1962? Was I remembering the correct kind of palm tree for that area of Southern California? The other kind of research relied on sheer imagination. It’s always important to get the facts straight: as a fiction writer, you’re building a dream, and that dream needs to progress without any logistical snags, or you risk the reader getting nudged awake. But the crucial truths in story-telling are emotional. And to my way of thinking, a lot less changes from decade to decade in terms of what people want and regret than we’d like to think. It’s made me happy to hear women of that era say that the struggles the main characters face in the book ring true, but, sadly, it hasn’t surprised me.
4. This story is ultimately about a friendship between two women who have grown up together. Did you rely on any of your own experiences with girlfriends to articulate the ins and outs of their relationship?

I tend to deliberately avoid using specifics from my day-to-day in my writing: I find the hard facts of my own life distracting when I’m trying to create a world with its own truths, its own peculiar climate. That said, Rebecca and Alex’s relationship is undoubtedly a mish-mash of dozens of different friendships I’ve witnessed and experienced, particularly during adolescence. There’s a fluidity to teenage girls and their sense of identity that makes those intense friendships so many women have during those years possible. Over time, that intimacy is generally (and quite naturally) replaced by romantic relationships. It occurred to me as I worked on Autobiography that it would have to be both an extraordinary friendship as well as an extraordinary set of circumstances to break that natural progression. There was so much about these two women and their lives that seemed to me to create the perfect storm of disappointment and desire, exactly the kind that might allow a relationship like theirs to continue to carry so much weight. In the end, I wasn’t surprised to find myself writing about a friendship that looked a lot more like love.
5. How did you first become interested in writing?
Like most writers, I spent my childhood buried in books. I think of those years now as the seed that would eventually appear above ground as this, my life as a writer. I never consciously considered writing books of my own; in fact, I spent the first twenty-odd years of my life training to be a musician. I suppose what I was searching for all those years was a way to communicate – I just had the medium wrong. When, in my mid-twenties, I realized I didn’t have the talent to achieve what I wanted to through music, I went back to my childhood love. I had the wild idea I might be able to speak through words the way I couldn’t through music.  Luckily, it was the first of many endings that turned out to be a beginning.

THE “POSITIVE STONES” OF SORROW — A REVIEW

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The horrific and gruesome murder spree in August 1969, beginning with five people, including Sharon Tate, will forever taint a time—the sixties—and cast a legacy of loss and pain upon the generations that followed for the families affected: first the Tates, and then the LaBiancas, who were murdered the following day.

But Restless Souls: The Sharon Tate Family’s Account of Stardom, the Manson Murders, and a Crusade for Justice is primarily the story of one family, the Tates, and is told in the voices of Patti Tate, Sharon Tate’s sister; her mother Doris; and Patti’s daughter Brie. From their perspectives, we learn a bit about what life was like for them…after.

The manuscript, intended to be Patti’s autobiography, was finished after her death by Alisa Statman, her friend, along with Brie Tate. Statman also drew upon material from interviews, journals, and filled in the gaps with her personal interpretations.

I began this book believing that I would learn more about the Tate family and how they suffered afterwards. And I did learn that. But I was surprised by how much I also learned about the various aspects of the prison system in California during the time period following the murders, and how changes in the law forced the Tates—beginning with Doris, who was the strongest advocate—to actively petition and speak out against the potential release of these gruesome murderers to parole, after their death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.

The toll taken on Doris and Patti in the aftermath must have greatly contributed to their untimely deaths. Definitely their experiences affected the family members for all time. But, as Brie has stated in the final chapter:

“Sorrow may seem a pitiful emotion, yet I am blessed by it. For it has left me a legacy of love, determination, and courage handed down by my mother and my grandparents before her. They taught me that we learn our greatest lessons through hardship. And through that hardship, they taught me not about fear and retribution, but about giving.”

To turn the pain and sorrow into “positive stones” to pay forward, Brie Tate’s legacy is thus not only about pain and loss but about the blessings that accrue from positive action.

 
The book was long and detailed, and at times, wore me down with all the information, some of it quite grisly, but in the end, I felt renewed and as if I could take away something worthwhile from the task. Four stars.

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: INTROS/TEASERS — RESTLESS SOULS — JAN. 29

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Today I’ve decided to go back to the past to read about events that happened in August 1969.  It was a time I remember well.  I lived in a nice suburban house with my husband and two small children.  We were sitting on our lovely patio the night after we heard…horrified by the events of that time.

Restless Souls:  The Sharon Tate Family’s Account…, by Alisa Statman with Brie Tate, is the family’s story.

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Intro/Beginning:  Patti – August 9, 1969

“My God, Sharon’s been murdered.”  Barely able to get the words out, my mother collapsed against the scarred door frame and then to her knees.  I looked up from my favorite cartoon in time to see the first tear spill from her eyes.

Paralyzed by her emotion but not understanding it, I could only stare at her while the seconds passed, waiting for an explanation.  Her lips fluttered, but there was no sound.  Leaning forward, I strained to hear.  Then, in a scarcely audible whisper, she said, “My baby’s dead.”

As if floating to me in delayed time and space, her words eventually reached my ears, forever altering the stability of my life.

***

Would you keep reading?  Even knowing most of what happened from the news and TV movies, I am eager to read the family’s perspective.

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Teaser:  Patti:

The media swarmed the downtown courthouse like journalistic sharks drawn into the feeding frenzy by the Manson family.  Months before the trial started, reporters played a high-stakes, cutthroat game for exclusive interviews with the suspects.  (p. 119)

***

Amazon Description:  The gruesome murders of the beautiful and talented actress Sharon Tate, her unborn child and four others that same night at the hands of the notorious “Manson family” rocked the nation. As one of the most horrific crimes in modern history, these atrocities, the trial and the subsequent conviction of Charles Manson and his followers caused a media sensation, spawning movies, documentaries and bestselling books, including the classic Helter Skelter. A defining moment in an era otherwise associated with radical peace, love and understanding, this incident is one that still resonates with millions today.

Yet while this crime left an indelible mark on society’s consciousness, it was, first and foremost, a shattering personal tragedy for those closest to Sharon—the loving family left to cope with the emotional devastation of her loss. Now, after nearly forty years, their story is finally revealed.

Compiled by close family friend Alisa Statman and Sharon’s niece Brie Tate, Restless Souls draws on a wealth of material including interviews with the Tates, personal letters, tape recordings, home movies, public interviews, private journals, and official documents to provide a powerful, poignant, and affecting four-decade, three-generation memoir of crime and punishment, anguish and hope, rage and love, that is both a chronicle of death and a celebration of life.

Extending beyond all previous accounts, Restless Souls is the most revealing, riveting, and emotionally raw account not just of these heinous murders, the hunt and capture of the killers and the behind-the-scenes drama of their trials, but of the torment victims families’ endure for years in the wake of such senseless violence….

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Now I’m off to see what the rest of you are sharing….

A LONG JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF & LOSS — A REVIEW

Filled with themes of struggle, loss, and triumph, Rain portrays a family through the decades. From the 1960s to the mid-2000s, this journey of one family living in rural Australia is a testament to survival in the face of extremes.

A fire in the mill owned by the Wallin family is only the beginning of what seems like a trail of grief. The theme of rain peppers the pages, too; not just the seasonal rains that bring devastation but the symbolic rain of grief and loss.

But the rains can also remind us of other things, as in this excerpt:

 

 

 

 

 

(Carla, the third generation daughter is contemplating the rain). “I am waiting for the rain to pass so I can hike again through the bush—I go there in search of my guide. There is something about the rain. I have always found it comforting. It makes me feel warm even when it is cold. I love the way it smells, especially the way the bush smells after the rain. I love the way it tastes and I love the way it feels on my skin. Rain is life—everything grows from it….”

When I chose this family saga, I expected something quite different. I enjoyed the symbolism, the struggles, and the persistence of the characters despite the tragedies that seemed to flank them. Perhaps even because of the tragedies. But parts of the story seemed bogged down by a tendency toward “chronicling” the lives of the characters rather than showing them through their interactions and through dialogue.

I did care about what happened to them, but at times, I felt frustrated by the detached tone of the author. I would still recommend this book to those who enjoy family stories. My rating is 3.5 stars.

TUESDAY INTROS/TEASERS: RAIN — JULY 10

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Just grab your book and share the opening lines; then find another excerpt that “teases” the reader.

Today’s excerpts are from Rain, by Leigh K. Cunningham.

Winner, Literary Fiction category, 2011 Indie Excellence Awards.
Silver medalist, 2011 Independent Publisher Awards (IPPY), Regional Fiction: Australia/New Zealand.

Set in provincial Australia in the early sixties, Rain is a multigenerational family saga that chronicles the lives of three generations of the Wallin sawmilling dynasty. It explores the often difficult but enduring ties between mothers and daughters, men and women: the sacrifices, compromises, and patterns of emotion that repeat themselves through generations.

In a journey that spans four decades and crosses the globe, Rain is an epic tale of the choices and consequences that comprise one family’s history. By turn dark and amusing, Rain delivers an emotionally charged revelation about love, loss, guilt, self-discovery and redemption. The enduring question of family bonds, escapable or not, divides, conquers, and triumphs.

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Intro:  Maine was a town with immunity from outbreaks of new ways of thinking.  Bohemians had never penetrated its outer limits, nor had the beatniks, and the Hippies would go the same way—around the perimeter.  The Aquarian age that blew through elsewhere releasing seeds that would sprout rebellion and enlightenment, passed over Maine at a great altitude.

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Teaser:  Michael would have slept longer, but the familiar stench of potato cakes had exacerbated his alcohol-induced nausea.  p. 24

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Now I’m off to see what the rest of you are sharing….

TEASER TUESDAYS — THE TRAIN OF SMALL MERCIES — DEC. 13

Welcome to Teaser Tuesdays, hosted by Should Be Reading.  This is an event that features bookish excerpts.

To join in, just go to the link….

Here’s how it works:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

Today I’m sharing from a book that I’ve been waiting for…a story that features a time in the past and its haunting search for hope amid the debris of an American tragedy:  The Train of Small Mercies, by David Rowell.

About: 

In New York, a young black porter struggles through his first day on the job-a staggering assignment aboard Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral train. In Pennsylvania, a woman creates a tangle of lies to sneak away from her disapproving husband and pay her respects to the slain senator, dragging her child with her. In Maryland, a wounded young soldier awaits a newspaper interview that his parents hope will restore his damaged self-esteem. And in Washington, an Irish nanny in town to interview with the Kennedy family must reconcile the lost opportunity and the chance to start her life anew.

In this stunning debut, David Rowell depicts disparate lives united by an extraordinary commemoration, irrevocably changed as Kennedy’s funeral train makes its solemn journey from New York to Washington.

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Teaser: Delores looked at the wet red paint on her posterboard.  It read:  “Our prayers are with you, Ethel,” but now her choice of red filled her with regret.  It was blood red. p. 40

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I’m eager to immerse myself in this poignant story.  What are you excerpting today?  I hope you’ll stop by and share….