Amanda Gates
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A Musings - March 2009

OK, so since my last post just a few days ago, New England White has really picked up. Julia's found some bravery deep inside her, and armed with extremely vague clues left to her, and only her, by the victim, she's set out to find the truth. She's poking around some shady parts of town, breaking and entering, traveling to Boston, Harlem and Paris looking for answers, all the while being followed by characters we know, as well as characters we don't yet know.

As more and more of the story unravels, the more interesting it gets. Julia's husband is a very powerful man, but even though she's been married to him for 20 years, she's just discovering how far a reach his power has. And that's not always a good thing. Can you imagine not really knowing the person you're married to? Plus, the present day murder of Julia's former lover corresponds to a death that happened 30 years ago - and let's just say, people aren't too happy with her for digging it all back up.

The mystery is very good. I have no idea who did what. I have some thoughts, but I can't know for sure, and then with each chapter a new clue reveals itself and my current thought is proven wrong (or is it?). I think the mystery works so well because the answers to the clues are not answers the reader can know. They come from Julia's past, a past that hasn't been shared with us yet. Some other books' mysteries lay out the clues for you in the preceding pages, and if they're not hidden well enough, you can figure things out. I like both types of mysteries. With New England White, I don't expect to know the truth until the end, which makes it that much more fun to read. However, when a book lays out all the clues I need, and then still surprises me because I didn't see the ending coming, that's very good writing, too.

I have only about 100 pages left, so I expect to finish very soon. Then the question is, What should I read next?

Posted: Fri, 03/27/2009 - 08:35 | Comments: 2

I started New England White last week, the second novel by Stephen Carter, author of The Emperor of Ocean Park (a book I read years ago and remember enjoying). Here's the publisher's synopsis:

The author of The Emperor of Ocean Park, with the powers of observation and richness of plot and character, returns to the New England university town of Elm Harbor, where a murder begins to crack the veneer that has hidden the racial complications of the town’s past, the secrets of a prominent family, and the most hidden bastions of African-American political influence. And at the center: Lemaster Carlyle, the university president, and his wife, Julia Carlyle, a deputy dean at the divinity school – African Americans living in “the heart of whiteness.”

Lemaster is an old friend of the president of the United States. Julia was the murdered man’s lover years ago. The meeting point of these connections forms the core of a mystery that deepens even as Julia closes in on the politically earth-shattering motive behind the murder.

Relentlessly suspenseful, galvanizing in its exploration of the profound difference between allegiance to ideas and to people, New England White is a resounding confirmation of Stephen Carter’s gifts as a writer of fiction.

The book started a little slow for me. It focused more on Julia, with her wondering what happened to her former boyfriend and spending a lot of time confused. However, once the book gets into the mystery of the murder, and a former detective, now head of security at the college, decides to get some answers, things started to pick up. I'm starting to try and figure out the murder, more so then I was doing when Julia was the central character. Where I'm at right now, the former detective is going to confront Julia. I'm sure things will shift back to her point of view, but maybe with the story diving deeper into the mystery to keep it interesting.

Posted: Tue, 03/24/2009 - 07:56 | Comments: 1

This isn't book related, but since I've only just started my next book, and it's some 600 pages long, I knew it might be another few days before I posted again.

One of my bffs brought my attention to The Happiness Project, a blog that corresponds with an upcoming book (I guess this is somewhat book related), about what makes people happy. What works? What doesn't? I especially enjoyed her latest post, which listed 10 different myths about happiness. It seems that it can just come down to your attitude and being thankful and happy about what you have in the present.

Have a happy day. :)

Posted: Thu, 03/19/2009 - 09:59 |

This week I read The Way Life Should Be. At just under 300 pages and pretty fluffy story-wise, this wasn’t a hard book to finish in less than five days. However, it’s just the book I needed after reading Dreams From My Father. It was a simple fictional story about a likable character and it didn’t take too much thinking on my part.

In just the matter of a few chapters, Angela finds herself without a job and with a strong online flirtation, and all of sudden this New York City woman is headed to Maine. What I liked about this book, whether realistic or not, is the adventure and risk Angela takes. She may go to Maine for the wrong reasons, but she sticks around for the right ones. I liked her new friends – even if some were barely fleshed out – and I loved the sound of Maine. It really made me want to find this little island of hers (in the summertime) and take a walk on the beach. She took her life down a notch stress-wise, and when real life feels out-of-control with economic crises, layoffs, etc., you can’t help but envy her and wish for a little corner of peaceful Maine for yourself. Especially when it seems the residents of that little town don’t get bothered by much. They just live.

Obviously, life in small town is only feasible for some, and I would probably get bored quite quickly. But who knows? Maybe a little trip to New England is worth a thought.

Angela also cooks a lot in this book, and while some of the cooking scenes can drag a bit with the recipes written out long form, I do love the thought of the home-cooking and learning about her relationship with her little Italian grandmother who taught Angela her way around a kitchen.

Posted: Fri, 03/13/2009 - 14:44 | Comments: 1

I bought these dried cranberries from Target today to keep in my desk at work. While I was munching on them, and procrastinating, I read the back of the package. As a journalist and an editor, I love when I find typos - on things other than what I work on. But I've never seen such a bad mix up, especially in such a short amount of copy. Below, if you read carefully, you'll see what I mean.

Hey Target, if you need a copy editor, I'm sure there are plenty of out-of-work journalists or editors who would be willing to take the job.

Posted: Mon, 03/09/2009 - 18:08 | Comments: 4

I finished this book today. It took me a little longer than I expected since I got sick last week and reading was the last thing I wanted to do. I really enjoyed reading about Obama's journey to find his ancestry. The last section was about his extended stay in Kenya where he met more relatives than you can even imagine. While most of the Kenya section was very informational and interesting to read about, some was a tad slow. But I admire him for going there, meeting a whole bunch of strangers who feel they have ownership of him, to find out the truth of his past and his father's past. Not very many people do that in life.

But what struck me most about Kenya and his family there, is, man, what they must think of him now. They were so proud of him back then, and definitely brought him down to Earth about who he was, but imagine what they think of him being president of the United States. That has to be nearly unfathomable to them, yet I bet deep down they knew he'd do big things.

I'm very glad I read this book and got to know our president better. I know not everyone feels this way, but I think it's nice that our president came from a similar background as a majority of the people in this country. Single mom, middle-class, worked his tail off to get into Harvard. He didn't get where he is today by the power of anyone but himself. So, truly, any child can look at him and know you can be anything you want to be.

Posted: Sun, 03/08/2009 - 15:06 | Comments: 1

For the past 12 years, the National Education Association has celebrated Read Across America, or National Reading Day, on March 2, Dr. Seuss' birthday.

Take a moment to read today. And more importantly, if there's one in your life, take a moment to read to a child.

Posted: Mon, 03/02/2009 - 07:04 |