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Author Archive for Kara Logsden



The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

by Kara Logsden on December 17th, 2013
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion Cover Image

I love when friends pass along good book recommendations. Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project was a lot of fun and aided in my continued procrastination this holiday season.

Don Tillman is a lovable but socially awkward professor of genetics in Australia who lives an orderly, routine, logical, evidence-based life. Because Don is lonely, he decides to create “The Wife Project” to help him find a partner. Being a scientist, he approaches this project the only way he knows how: Don identifies all characteristics he would expect in a compatible partner and creates a questionnaire that would have a high statistical probability of identifying Ms. Right. What Don doesn’t expect is to be drawn to someone who demonstrates a high probability of incompatibility.

Speaking of incompatibility, Don meets Rosie and abandons “The Wife Project” because Rosie needs help with her “Father Project.” Suddenly Don’s life is turned upside down and he’s not sure if he can fit flexibility, change and disorder into his life. But after some time with Rosie, he’s willing to give it a try.

The characters are quirky but lovable, the plot moves quickly, and Don’s social inadequacies are endearing. This is a fun read that is highly recommended. ~Enjoy~

 

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

by Kara Logsden on December 12th, 2013
Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan Cover Image

Thanks to a friend I received an Advance Reader Copy of Nancy Horan’s new book, Under the Wide and Starry Sky. Nancy Horan is the author of Loving Frank, a fictionalized story about architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Because Loving Frank is on my list of all-time favorite books, I was delighted to have a sneak-peek at Horan’s new book due out January 7, 2014.

Horan’s new novel begins in 1875 and focuses on Fanny van de Grift Osbourne, an independent American woman who flees her life with a philandering husband in San Francisco and moves with her children to Belgium. After a personal tragedy, she moves to an artist colony in France where she can retreat and refocus her life. While in France, Fanny meets a young Scot who instantly falls in love with her. The Scotsman, Robert Louis Stevenson, is an unhealthy attorney, plagued with lung ailments, who yearns to devote his life to writing. Stevenson’s love for Fanny is not a popular decision with his family and friends; however, he is determined to forge ahead. After Stevenson achieves fame, Fanny must strike a balance between her independence, desire to also be a writer, and support for Stevenson.

I enjoy reading Historical Fiction and learning about a well-known person in a new way. Stevenson is best known for his novels Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; however, despite his writing success, health and personal issues plagued him during his lifetime and readers will come to appreciate the partnership Fanny and Stevenson shared that enabled his life as an author. From France to Scotland, California, England, Switzerland and Samoa, each place offered challenges and triumphs.  The book is on order, so put your hold in now for this great new novel. ~Enjoy~

The Wednesday Daughters

by Kara Logsden on November 8th, 2013
The Wednesday Daughters Cover Image

One of my favorite books from the past decade is The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. The Wednesday Sisters is a “coming of age” novel, set against a backdrop of the late 1960s, Civil Rights, Women’s Movement, and Vietnam War protests, that chronicles the friendship of five women who live in California. Fast forward nearly thirty years and The Wednesday Daughters continues the story with the next generation of friends.

The first chapter of the book was like meeting an old friend and I remembered why I loved The Wednesday Sisters years ago:

“We Wednesday Daughters weren’t born on Wednesdays, and we aren’t blood relations. We don’t gather to write at picnic tables like our mothers did.  We’re just daughters of friends who’ve called themselves “Wednesday Sisters” since before I was born, daughters who became friends ourselves the way girls who grow up together sometimes do, whether they have much in common or not.”

Set in the Lake District of the United Kingdom, Hope, Anna Page and Julie travel to the UK to retreat after the death of Hope’s mother and other collective and individual sorrows.  The sisters have learned life is not easy and sometimes retreats and friendships are needed in order to face an uncertain future.  Meg Waite Clayton weaves a compelling story with solid characters, a strong sense of place, and a meandering storyline perfect for cold winter nights.  There is also a side story about the author Beatrix Potter I initially found distracting, but once I was immersed into the story, I enjoyed it.

As winter settles in, it is nice to settle into a good book and rekindle friendships with beloved characters from the past.

 

 

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

by Kara Logsden on September 18th, 2013
Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear Cover Image

The tenth installment in the Maisie Dobbs series finds Maisie in London working on multiple cases. A woman from India has been murdered, a teenager has gone missing, and Maisie has been called in to investigate both.

Maisie continues to struggle with personal demons left from the loss of her mother and memories of World War I. In Leaving Everything Most Loved, Maisie is not only searching for answers for her cases, but also seeking clues about the journey her life should take. At age 37, when most of her peers have settled into domestic lives, Maisie feels the urge to travel and discover the world around her.

Jacqueline Winspear is known for her development of strong characters, deep sense of place, and compelling storylines evolving within the backdrop of England between World Wars I and II.  Leaving Everything Most Loved is no exception, although as a reader I worry Maisie’s downheartedness as a character may signal Winspear’s restlessness as an author about where this series is going. A quick look at Jacqueline Winspear’s webpage indicates she plans to continue writing but offers no details about future projects.

I will hope for the best and look forward to to where Maisie’s journey leads and the new adventures she finds as she sails to India. ~Enjoy~

Breaking Point & The Highway by C.J. Box

by Kara Logsden on September 1st, 2013
Breaking Point & The Highway by C.J. Box Cover Image

C.J. Box has two new novels this summer and both are page-turners! I enjoy C.J. Box books because they have a strong sense of place, good character development and the plot twists and turns. Books are always set in the West and often in places where I have traveled.

Breaking Point is the thirteenth installment in the Joe Pickett series. Like many other Pickett stories, the plot is loosely based on a legal issue and Joe must unravel details to get to the heart of the story. In this case, a central issue that moves the plot is the interaction between the EPA and landowners. The foundation of the story is loosely based on the Sackett Case, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the EPA overstepped its jurisdiction when dealing with a family in Idaho. In Breaking Point, a landowner and family man is on the run after EPA agents are found dead on his property. All signs point to his guilt; however, the more Joe digs into the story, the more he realizes the facts don’t add up. Joe feels a strong moral obligation to solve the case; however, a rogue EPA agent, unmanned drone, and a dry forest full of trees killed by pine beetles may push Joe to his breaking point.

The Highway is a stand-alone novel, although characters from Box’s previous book, Back of Beyond, return in this novel. Cody Hoyt continues to struggle with sobriety while working as a sheriff’s deputy in Wyoming. When two teenage girls, who are friends of his son, disappear somewhere between Denver and Yellowstone en route to Montana, Cody feels an obligation to find them. Meanwhile, a long-haul trucker who has nicknamed himself The Lizard-King preys on prostitutes at truck stops and other women he encounters on the highway. Unhappy at home, he gets satisfaction from kidnapping and torturing women. Although he believes he outsmarted others, his clandestine crimes begin to unravel as the search for the girls continue.

I always look forward to C.J. Box novels. Two new books in one summer make for a great reading adventure! ~Enjoy~

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

by Kara Logsden on July 22nd, 2013
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg Cover Image

Every once in awhile I read a book and think, “WOW!” The last time this happened for me was with the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain. It was a pleasure to read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” a book that redefines feminism for my generation and women in their twenties and thirties who are thinking about leaning into their careers, personal lives, and aspirations.

I listened to the book while driving to and from a remote camp in northern Wisconsin to visit my twenty-something daughter. “Lean In” shared many ideas I wish I would have heard twenty years ago about prioritizing, making good decisions, time management, working smarter, consciously creating balances between personal life and work life, and feeling confident in personal decisions instead of guilt for choosing one facet of life over another. Sheryl Sandberg invites a positive new definition of feminism where women lean in to work, relationships, and life within a context of not pitting choices against one-another, but creating a balance that works for the individual.

As I was listening to this book, I knew it was a book my daughter needed to listen to as well. Somewhere in northern Wisconsin there is a package with this book heading to my daughter. I hope she hears the message and feels confident in her choices to lean in to her aspirations. ~Enjoy~

The Heist by Janet Evanovich

by Kara Logsden on July 18th, 2013
The Heist by Janet Evanovich Cover Image

Janet Evanovich’s new novel is funny, entertaining, and perfect for hot summer days. The Heist is the first of a new Evanovich series, co-written with Lee Goldberg, called “The Fox and O’Hare Novels.” The series features FBI Special Agent, Kate O’Hare, paired with notorious international crook, Nicolas Fox, working undercover for the FBI to catch a thief who is living on a remote island in Indonesia. In true Evanovich style, the characters are quirky, the plot twists & turns, and there’s an undercurrent of a love interest between the main characters. A perfect combination to go with a cool beverage on a hot day. ~Enjoy~

Recommended Books List

by Kara Logsden on February 5th, 2013
Recommended Books List Cover Image

I love to talk about books! Recently I had the honor of speaking to the ICCSD Retired Teachers Association. Not only is this one of my favorite groups to visit, but I also have an opportunity to see some of the teachers who made a big difference in my life (thank you!).  After my presentation I received a number of requests for the book list I shared. I thought others may enjoy the list as well so I’m posting it here. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I did!

Recommended Books for Iowa City Community School District Retired Teachers Association, January 2013

Wakefield, Dan (Editor) 

Kurt Vonnegut: Letters

 

Letters shows a very human side of a person who mentored others, was proud of his heritage, was frustrated when he was misunderstood, pushed back against censors, and profoundly loved his family. Vonnegut’s last word of advice he was writing for an audience, “And how should we behave during this Apocalypse? We should be unusually kind to one another, certainly. But we should also stop being so serious. Jokes help a lot. And get a dog, if you don’t already have one …” (Page 413). Biography
Marshall, Penny 

My Mother Was Nuts

Marshall’s biography reads like a Who’s Who of 70′s, 80′s and 90′s pop culture. Each chapter represents a different phase in Marshall’s life, and she often relates the story to a life lesson she learned from her mother. Marshall is pragmatic and unrepentant.  She worked hard and played harder. In the midst of her life choices, and despite her many successes she distills life down to four simple lessons: “try hard, help your friends, don’t get too crazy, and have fun.”  Biography
James, Eloisa 

Paris in Love

Eloisa James, also known as Mary Bly, is an Associate Professor of English Literature at Fordham University.  She is from Minnesota but has degrees from Harvard, Yale and Oxford.  She is probably best known for the Regency Romances she writes.  After a successful fight with breast cancer, she and her Italian husband, on a whim, decide to go to Paris on sabbatical for a year with their 11 and 15-year-old children.  Biography
Thompson, Jean 

The Year We Left Home

2013 All Iowa Reads selection

My favorite All Iowa Reads book so far. Many events described in the book are memories from my childhood and memories long-time Iowans will share. Lyrical writing conjures experiences of cold Iowa winter days and the joy of an Iowa spring or fall. The book follows four siblings in one family and their life events.  Although they go different places and have different experiences, their roots are deep in the Iowa soil and family ties.  Fiction
Moriarty, Laura 

The Chaperone

Laura Moriarty’s newest novel is a hybrid story about the life of silent-film star Louise Brooks and fictionalized character Cora Carlisle. The story begins in 1922 when 36-year-old Cora Carlisle agrees to chaperone 15-year-old Louise Brooks for a summer in New York City dancing with the Denishawn School of Dance.  Readers learn Cora’s life, just like Louise Brooks’, is not what it appears and the story revolves around Cora’s path of self-discovery and quest for happiness.  Fiction
Walter, Jess 

Beautiful Ruins

Jess Walters weaves a wonderful story that easily switches between 1962 and the present day. The characters are real and readers will understand the friction between dreams and reality that each character faces. I thought the writing was beautiful and I especially appreciated the strong sense of place Walters creates in Italy. The Cinque Terre is on my short list of places where I want to visit, so I appreciated the opportunity to vicariously travel to Italy in the pages of this book.  Fiction
Tyler, Anne 

The Beginner’s Goodbye

Pulitzer Prize winning author, Anne Tyler, is well-known for novels with subtle plots that explore complex issues. These issues often include personal discovery, relationships, life changes, and characters who are seeking meaning in their lives. The Beginner’s Goodbye is definitely subtle and I had to be patient and let Tyler tell me the story when she was ready. It was delightful to slow down and pay attention to the words and story as it unfolded.  Fiction
Rosnay, Tatiana de 

The House I Loved

A fictionalized story of Rose Bazelet and her opposition to the destruction of her family home during Haussman’s renovation of Paris, 1853-1870. Haussman’s radical plan was criticized for the large-scale destruction it caused; however, in recent times he has been credited with establishing Paris as a modern city. de Rosnay is best known for debut novel, Sarah’s Key. Like Sarah’s Key, this book features solid characters, a strong sense of place, and a time of significant historical events.  Fiction
Orringer, Julie 

The Invisible Bridge

Sometimes books come along and leave a lasting impression, forcing the reader to ruminate about events and characters long after the book is done. This is one of those books.  Andras and Tibor Levy are Jewish brothers who grew up in a small village in Hungary. It is the 1930′s and both aspire to do great things. The book focuses on Andras, his adventures and studies in Paris, and the relationship he establishes with the mysterious Klara Morgenstern, a Hungarian ballet instructor.  Fiction
McLain, Paula 

The Paris Wife

The fictional story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. After a whirlwind courtship the couple marries and moves to Paris so Ernest can pursue his writing career. The Hemingways are drawn into Parisian life and meet many other writers and artists. There is a constant friction, though, between Ernest the writer and Ernest the husband. Highly recommended.  Fiction
Vreeland, Susan 

Clara and Mr. Tiffany

Because of this book, I went to New York City to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other places to see Tiffany Glass.  Fictionalized story of Clara Driscoll who worked with Louis Comfort Tiffany at his New York studio and possibly the person who conceived the idea for the iconic Tiffany stained glass lamps. Set with the turn-of-the-century New York City backdrop with issues such as the rise of labor unions, women in the workplace, and advances in technology.  Fiction
Box, C.J. 

Force of Nature

Game Warden Joe Pickett’s friend, Nate Romanowski, knows a secret about a governmental official. That official plans to kill Nate to keep him quiet, and is targeting the entire Pickett family to get to Nate. Will Nate’s actions justify the outcome? Can Nate survive and save his friends? All C.J. Box books recommended including Pickett series and stand-alones.  Mystery
Winspear, Jacqueline 

Elegy for Eddie

It’s April 1933 in London and the Private Investigator, Maisie Dobbs, is grappling with how she fits into the world. Maisie comes from the working-class neighborhood in Lambeth where her father was a costermonger before going to work at a country estate. Maisie inherited a considerable estate from her mentor and feels an obligation to use her new-found wealth to help others but struggles to balance the moral obligation she feels with the wishes of those she wants to help.  Mystery
Bradley, Alan 

Speaking from Among the Bones

The fifth book in the Flavia de Luce Series.  Step aside Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy, eleven year old Flavia de Luce is on the case! It’s 1950 and Flavia is living in an old English estate with her family. Flavia is a budding chemist as well as a precocious pre-teen. The books are well written, the characters are well developed, and the mysteries are solid.  Mystery
Cain, Susan 

Quiet

More than 33% of people are introverts. Through research in psychology and neuroscience, and personal interviews, Cain demonstrates the difference between introverts and extroverts and our country’s perception of the “Extroverted Ideal.” The author also focuses on the power of introversion and ways introverts have successfully coped with living in an extroverted world, providing suggestions for how introverts can harness this power while remaining true to themselves.  Nonfiction
Hillenbrand, Laura 

Unbroken

Olympic runner Louis Zamperini enlisted in the US Army Air Forces in 1941. When the plane he was assigned to crashes into the South Pacific, Louis survives the crash and 47 days at sea in a plastic life raft. He was then captured by the Japanese and sent to a labor camp. I respectfully refer to this books as the, “I will never complain about anything ever again book.” An older title but highly recommended!  Nonfiction

Paris in Love by Eloisa James

by Kara Logsden on February 3rd, 2013
Paris in Love by Eloisa James Cover Image

I dream of moving to Paris. Walks along the Seine, long lunches at outdoor cafes, and immersion into French culture would be an amazing experience for a Midwestern girl. Mary Bly, who hails from Minnesota and is only a couple years older than me, survived breast cancer and decided to do something remarkable. After a lot of discussion, she and her husband move to Paris for a year with their two children, ages 11 and 15.  Mary Bly, better known as romance writer Eloisa James, is a Shakespeare professor and has degrees from Harvard, Oxford, and Yale.

Paris in Love is written as a series of social media posts documenting Mary Bly’s experiences in Paris. From the early days of transitioning into Parisian life to the final days of savoring a few final meals with friends, Bly captures everyday life and the transformation her family experiences during their year abroad. Some posts are laugh-out-loud funny while others capture the coming-of-age experiences of her children and memories of family and friends. I listened to the book on disc, narrated by the author. The narration was wonderful and added to my enjoyment of the book.

Although it is not likely I will move to Paris, I thoroughly enjoyed moving there vicariously with Bly and her family. I was very sorry when the book ended and miss my daily commuter dose of Paris. I haven’t read an Eloisa James novel, but now I am curious about those stories as well. ~~Enjoy~~

Quiet by Susan Cain

by Kara Logsden on January 12th, 2013
Quiet by Susan Cain Cover Image

QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is a fascinating book that explores introversion. The author, Harvard Law School graduate Susan Cain, practiced corporate law for seven years and teaches negotiation skills at corporations, law firms, and universities. Cain uses her personal experience, as well as the experiences of others, to introduce the many skills of introverts. I rarely read Nonfiction but I found this book fascinating.

QUIET is well researched and demonstrates although introverts appear to be “quiet” they have a skill set that is invaluable but often undervalued. More than 33% of people are introverts. Through research in psychology and neuroscience, along with personal interviews and anecdotes, Cain demonstrates the difference between introverts and extroverts and our country’s perception of the “Extroverted Ideal.”  From her research and interviews, the author turns her focus to the power of introversion and shows ways introverts have successfully coped with living in an extroverted world. She also provides suggestions for how introverts can harness this power while still remaining true to themselves.

While reading this book, I kept thinking about my personal understanding of personality traits and where I land on the continuum between introversion and extroversion based on the most common personality type test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I’ve had an opportunity to take this test many times at different jobs, in graduate school, and (after finishing this book) on my own for fun. I have an equal number of tests that suggest introversion (ISTJ) and extroversion (ESTJ). Cain’s book helped me understand some of my personal coping strategies.

Whether you are introverted or extroverted, I highly recommend QUIET. I listened to this book and Kathe Mazur’s narration is excellent. ~Enjoy~