The Avid Reader
Tune in to WCHE 1520 AM on Mondays for the latest interview. You can find past interviews on iTunes or Podomatic.
Note: Interviews are at 5:00 pm
Sam interviews the following authors:
April 9: Frances Mayes: Women in Sunlight
April 16: Madeline Miller: Circe
April 23: Christopher Moore: Noir
April 30: Jody Shields: The Winter Station
May 1: Fran Leadon: Broadway: Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles Listen
Broadway is not just a street or an Avenue or a Boulevard. It is Broadway with a capital everything. The great White Way, Times Square, Union Square, The Woolworth Building, the Flatiron, the Ansonia. It is a street that defines a city. And what Mr. Leadon has done here is to encapsulate that street in its thirteen miles into the history of a place, a place that everyone in America and most people around the globe can identify with. Through copious research and a map of each mile to keep you centered, the book transports you in time and place and gives you an intimate picture of times forgotten and remembered, buildings that burnt down and were replaced and buildings that weren’t. After you read this book you will have a new understanding of this great city, a city that in good portion defines America.
Jody Shields’s new novel, “The Winter Station,” takes place in 1910 Kharbin, a bleak Russian-controlled outpost in Manchuria. People are dying; their bodies are disappearing mysteriously. Baron von Budberg, the town’s aristocratic doctor, discovers an epidemic and a coverup. (Little, Brown)
In this tale based on an actual Manchurian plague, much is still unknown about the transmission of the disease, even to the various Eastern and Western doctors. The city’s Russian ruler tells the Baron, “Information does not belong equally to everyone.” He goes to great lengths to protect information — and his own power. But a secret like the plague doesn’t keep for long.
Shields surrounds the Baron with fascinating people, including a black marketeer, a Chinese dwarf and the Baron’s subservient wife. But our ostensible hero, the Baron, is more a set of eyes than a character, and seems to exist only to wander through the various medical frustrations of 1910.
“Their knowledge was nothing but theories and guesswork propelled by fear,” he thinks. “A fist against a giant wave, a wall of brick.” Science has a long way to go, and he feels for his patients, but he’s mostly holding hands. “The Baron couldn’t look at them, without a sense of betrayal as he checked them for symptoms. He was repeatedly overwhelmed by a wave of tenderness, a longing to stop this process, to explain the situation, turn them aside from their fate.”
Unfortunately, the Baron’s lack of efficacy is matched by his lack of personality, which makes for some slow, frustrating reading. He takes calligraphy breaks every few chapters, but this doesn’t shed any light on his character or move the story along. “He was untethered,” Shields writes. “With the detachment of an observer, he realized that he’d pass the rest of his life here.” We share that concern. (WASHINGTON POST)
Noir is a tough book to describe. Our protagonist is Sammy “two-toes” Tiffin a bartender with a past and then a future (hopefully) that contains one Stilton (the cheese), a knock-out blond bombshell whose picture is on the cover and on the title page of alternating chapters. But things don’t go as planned. Sal, the bar’s owner shows up dead, an Air Force General has some urgent business that falls on Sammy’s shoulders. At the same time we have some visitors from Roswell New Mexico, a secret society and Sammy and his pals, a Chinese sidekick, and a nasty but lovable kid and a black Mamba, (a semi-reliable narrator) all of whom join various other “MIB” types and loads of other fiends and friends to complete a roster of characters, who in this Noir book, coupled with the screwball comedy and mixed with the satire that Christopher so often provides us with lead to hijinks in this delightful romp.
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child--not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power--the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
By the bestselling author of Under the Tuscan Sun, and written with Frances Mayes’s trademark warmth, heart, and delicious descriptions of place, food, and friendship, Women in Sunlight is the story of four American strangers who bond in Italy and change their lives over the course of an exceptional year.
She watches from her terrazza as the three American women carry their luggage into the stone villa down the hill. Who are they, and what brings them to this Tuscan village so far from home? An expat herself and with her own unfinished story, she can’t help but question: will they find what they came for?
Kit Raine, an American writer living in Tuscany, is working on a biography of her close friend, a complex woman who continues to cast a shadow on Kit’s own life. Her work is waylaid by the arrival of three women—Julia, Camille, and Susan—all of whom have launched a recent and spontaneous friendship that will uproot them completely and redirect their lives. Susan, the most adventurous of the three, has enticed them to subvert expectations of staid retirement by taking a lease on a big, beautiful house in Tuscany. Though novices in a foreign culture, their renewed sense of adventure imbues each of them with a bright sense of bravery, a gusto for life, and a fierce determination to thrive. But how? With Kit’s friendship and guidance, the three friends launch themselves into Italian life, pursuing passions long-forgotten—and with drastic and unforeseeable results.