Red Fern Book Review

Fall Reading List

October 08, 2021 Amy Mair Season 2 Episode 4
Red Fern Book Review
Fall Reading List
Show Notes Transcript


Susan Matheson is in the house to discuss the best books of the season! This fall many big name authors, from Colson Whitehead to Amor Towles, have new books on offer. Susan goes a bit deeper and selects books that might not be on your radar.  Amy has also launched a monthly newsletter! Subscribe and ask questions, learn about extra titles, get a sneak peek at future episodes and participate in reader giveaways. To subscribe: https://redfernwriting.com/newsletter


Books and Resources discussed:

Lincoln Highway: A Novel by Amor Towles
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
Going There by Katie Couric
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
When I Ran Away: A Novel by Ilona Bannister
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, movie
Brothers on Three by Abe Streep
Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi
Island Queen by Vanessa Riley
Red Island House: A Novel by Andrea Lee
Freckles by Cecilia Ahern
P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern
P.S. I Love You, movie
My Biggest Mistake by Terry O'Reilly
Under the Influence with Terry O'Reilly, podcast

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Amy Mair:

Hello, welcome back to the Red Fern Book Review. I am your host, Amy Mair. And today I am joined by a special guest. She routine special guest, I feel like I need to give her a special title. But her name is Susan Matheson with bedside table books. And she's been blogging for many years, and she's been coming on. It looks like kind of every change of season to talk about new and exciting books. And this, I think fall I think Susan will say is when the biggest titles appear, it's kind of when everyone is would you say is that right? Is that the biggest season? I think I think there's

Susan Matheson:

sort of a ramping up towards the holiday season. But maybe it's related to that hunkering down feeling. We're all craving a good book. So the publication or publishing companies are taking advantage of it.

Amy Mair:

Yeah, so and this season, and I don't know, I think everybody had time to write because it sounds like all the really big authors have. A lot of them have come out with books. And so Susan, and I talked to her at a time and she just said, you know, what, if anybody's doing a lot of reading, they've probably heard about some of these books coming down the pike. So what she wanted to do today is talk about books that maybe you haven't thought of, and go from there. But maybe maybe we can just, I'm gonna ask you this have the kind of big titles coming out? Which one are you most excited about? Reading?

Susan Matheson:

Oh, gosh, there's so many I love Amor Towles who wrote A Gentleman in Moscow. And yeah, he's just to love his books. So I was delighted to see his new one coming out. And that will be on the must read pile. And I know the two of us are Ann Patchett fans, and she has a book on essays coming out called These Precious Days. And anyone who's just read my recent blog posting knows I've linked to a few of her essays. And it's kind of quiet about a new release, because I have another blog post coming up about short story and essay books. And that's one that will be featured prominently. Gosh, there's so many and there's like big biographies and memoirs coming out, which often happens often before Christmas, because they're great and gift giving books. So yeah, I have Katie Couric's Going There on my list and we've loved you know, mutual love of Stanley Tucci. His new book is called Taste: My Life Through Food.

Amy Mair:

Um, okay, so let's, let's go with your list. why don't why don't

Unknown:

we get started. All right, so we have six and as you

Susan Matheson:

mentioned, I you know, all these big names are all out there and these are ones that are very timely, but I'm kind of concerned might go under the radar. So let's put them on the radar. So the first one is called when I ran away, and this actually came out in March. But I have seen not much coverage of it, but I discovered it and I really want to dig in so it ties in quite closely to the 20th anniversary of 911 that we all just observed and the writer is Ilona Bannister. I was gonna say barrister because she is a barrister lives in the UK. So Ilona Bannister. And the book is When I Ran Away: A Novel. And this is a novel, but it very, very closely seems to parallel her personal life, which, when that happens, you find they're just amazing, honest truths, because the person is literally writing from their own personal experience. So she, Ilona, the writer was one of she ran away, she was at the towers on 911. And she escaped. She's from Staten Island. She grew up in Staten Island. And her instinct was to get on the ferry back home, get away from the tower. So it's all the chaos was raining. And when she did so, in the story, it will switch from her to the story, but there's so closely parallel. So the character in the story has the same experience gets on the ferry, but meets one of those not so strange strangers that are actually just blogged about those people in our lives that we see so frequently they become familiar. So she saw this English fellow who frequented the same coffee shop she did but he had nowhere to go. He was an expat from one And was living in New York. So she took him home with her to Staten Island. And I won't, like you were saying the other day give away too much of the story. But she ends up later on having relationship with this man and becoming an expat herself moving to London to be with his quite well off posh family from her sort of more humble Staten Island beginnings. Then there is the grief of the loss she's experienced with 911, she loses a brother in the 911 experience. And she also has traumatic childbirth and our life. So this is all part of the story. But it's also part of the writers story. So we have to make sure they don't merge. But all of it is full of big, big life events and lots of emotion. And the books been described as heartbreakingly honest and powerfully emotional. But then also funny, a lot of people have said, she manages that with amazing humor. And someone wrote it, it's actually a big hug of a read. So I'm trying to piece together reconcile in my mind how all these Jude, big events in a person's life become dealt with so well that they're considered a big hugs. So very good reviews, go to the first five posts on Goodreads and they're all five star and they talk about just she hits all these big events, but and the complexities of it all and the emotions of it all. But it feels like she's also giving us permission to have these big feelings in our lives and how to manage them. So almost unanimously, people come away from it feeling kind of emotionally supported after reading the book. So it's gonna be interesting. I think I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Amy Mair:

Have you read or seen the movie Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close? Yes, yes. Um, I remember. So that's by Jonathan Safran Foer. And when that came out, I don't know when it came out. I'm gonna guess 2010 I don't actually know. That's a while ago, but I think you're about right. And I avoided it. He's an excellent author. But I was like, I don't want to read about it. And I was on a plane and you know, when you're on a plane, and I don't know, I'm like, well, this is movies good enough. And, and I just loved it. And it stars Tom Hanks, and it's very, it's a Tom Hanks vehicle. And it's so sweet. It's, it's, it's really sweet. But somehow, this author did find beauty and meaning. And what happens is this boy, there's a boy with developmental disabilities, and he loses his dad who's very close to, and then there's a journey that he ends up taking. And but it's very positive. And it's about love. And, yeah, anyway, so I can see

Susan Matheson:

a great parallel, I think, to bring up because that's another one that, you know, all these poignant moments and if someone's able, in writing, to convey those in a way that we are all able to relate, that's a real gift. But it's a wonderful experience as a reader to to, you know, we sit and we watch the news, and I know recently I was I had to go to bed early, there's just a lot and it was so many stories, and they were every one of them was just wonderful. And, and but they're all emotional. So this book sounds like it creates a nice balance with the effects of 911 but also, the postpartum depression and other things, all sounding rather grim and upsetting and yet she seems to manage it with a light hand and in a way that her readers have been relating. So look forward to that one.

Amy Mair:

Okay, so what's, what's the next book?

Susan Matheson:

Okay, so this one is nonfiction. It's called Brothers on Three by Abe Streep. It is the true story of family resistance and hope on a reservation in Montana. So maybe not something that's sitting on the bestseller list right now, but the we think it is getting some good traction, just recently published, released on September 7. Streep is a journalist too, typically writes about sports. Big writer for Outside magazine, which as an aside, Outside Magazine is often an amazing resource for great writing is just Yes, credible writing great essays. So he writes for the New York Times and the New Yorker and specifically for Outside Magazine. This story evolved, I love all the backstories he was driving through small town early Montana, and saw a sign on the school gym that said that there was the early warriors big high school basketball state championship game coming up, and he sort of thought this is interesting among those reservation and it says little team in Montana going for the state championship. He talks to his publishers and he pitched an essay on this experience. So they said yes, he goes writes the starts to experience what was happening, and realized quite quickly that this high school championship game had so much more going on. And so these young boys win the state championship, which is ridiculous, it were they were underdogs, etc. So there's a great story. We all love those sports stories. But there was so much more to it, because when the game actually happened, the Reserve was dealing with a big suicide cluster, boys. And so while the boys in that year that these teammates were defending your title, so the following year, during that year, they became well, they started to raise awareness about society, maybe advocates for mental health of their peers. And so that whole story really evolved. And he was just so admiring of, you know, these kids in grade 12, and high school, shouldering the dreams and all the plans and all the responsibilities of their indigenous community peers, but also, then they're just boys that are in grade 12, we've come through that recently, you and I have our own families and, and the demands on these boys to become men and how they go about doing that. And then the added pressure of being indigenous and in this reserve situation. And then these great athletes, and then they have families and friendships and all of these sorts of elements. So it all comes together. And, you know, it's been written that this was exquisitely written and meticulously reported. And it just to me seems like one of those stories that we all should read, you know, to understand a little bit more about these new stories we see and to actually get in behind and get to the root of what's going on. So this one is definitely on my must read list.

Amy Mair:

Sounds like it could be a movie.

Susan Matheson:

Yes. In fact, there's on his website. If you go to Abe Streep's website, there is a trailer for the book, which is happening more and more these days, too. And the trailer is like watching a Mini Movie and you're right. It's very visual. And you know, that raw rod. One commenter said, you'll you'll close the book, and you'll be chanting the dance in your head. You're cheering them on as you read it. Okay, what's the next book? Next is Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi, and this one was released in March. And again, I'm very I've been I've seen the cover around on a few bestseller lists, but it just seems to be under the radar. But it seems timely again. And here I am. I didn't realize it until I actually wrote my notes that every one of these books is kind of tied to a current event. So this one is focused on the Afghan situation. So only just over a month ago, we had the Taliban taking over in Afghanistan. And yet that struggle has been going on for years and years and years since the early 70s. And so Nadia, has she me, I'm just a little aside another one who is a pediatrician and who, in her spare time raising novels,

Amy Mair:

I hate those people.

Susan Matheson:

were quite remarkable. So again, there's a few little parallels with her own life that you'll know a few there are quite a few. Anyway, I should say is that she is has Afghanistan, Afghan hair attended. Yeah. So it's in her experience to be raised while she was born and raised in New York and New Jersey, but she was raised in a culture that really celebrated their Afghan heritage. And so that's all familiar to her. And then at one point in her life, she did go back to Afghanistan to kind of see it in person understand what her parents experience had been. And so then we'll come around to this book. And the book is about the struggles of Afghan women. And it also is about a woman who's a doctor, who now returns to Afghanistan. So the parallels there, but she, the character in the book as a child was there when her parents were assassinated in Afghan coup. So when the coup happened, she was a child taken and adopted by an American diplomat. And there was a man who was with the military, who was involved in that all happening who later appears in her life and evokes gratitude but also anger and suspicion. And so she then returns back to find out just exactly what happened in that really momentous event in her life. So it's a great big, nice, juicy size of a book. And it apparently takes us on quite a journey, as you can tell. But I think right now, too, that we have this craving to understand, you know, we see these stories, and I'm a huge news hound I'm in, you know, watching it and reading it every day. And yet, there's so much that doesn't get covered in those sound bites on the news. If you can travel, even through fiction, and develop a little bit more of empathy with these stories, I think that's a great thing. So I look forward to that one as well. And some people might know, so Hashemi, Nadia Fushimi, the author has written quite a few books, and they're they're mostly about the struggles of Afghan women. And one that I remember I can see it, I haven't read it, but it's called the pearl that broke its shell. And that was one that I do recall being on the bestseller list quite often, that might people will see that title and go Oh, right. So she's quite an accomplished writer, based on the fact that she has these previous successes.

Amy Mair:

This reminds me a little bit of I listened to, if you ever listened to the daily podcast, we've talked about that. And there was a young woman on talking what it's like to live on the Gaza Strip, right. And all she did, all she did was she was the same age as my son. And she just talked about her life, just talking about her day, right? Or day and her night. And I was more effective by her just talking about, like she said, At night, the whole family comes to the center of the room, because they decided if they die, they want to all die together. Yeah. And they do that every night. And then they have a rule in their family that if anyone is under the age of 12, or 10. They don't explain what's happening at night with the bombs. They just lie and say at some firecrackers or something, and and just those two things alone will stick with me. And that to me, resonates with me more than actually trying to understand the policies and this and that. So I think this literature you're talking about, makes people look maybe more closely.

Susan Matheson:

Yeah, well, and the everyday experiences, as you say, are the I think the most poignant when we see those, those glimpses into somebody's reality. And when the story in the book like it does in these two examples earlier, parallels the life of the author, you know, you those details are authentic. Yeah. Yeah, not. That makes such a difference. Yeah.

Amy Mair:

Okay, what's the next one?

Susan Matheson:

Next, we have Island Queen by Vanessa Riley. And this one is again, another nice big, thick, juicy one we can sink into. I mean, well, when the rain comes back, and oh my gosh, these people I'm telling you, she's a doctor in mechanical engineering. This is the author Vanessa. Oh, wow. But she has a master's in industrial engineering, both from Stanford. She also has a Bachelors of Science and a Master's of Science from Penn State. So she knows words and books and study. So this story, though, is fascinating to me that I've never heard of this woman. So with this, it's a historical novel, which is a genre we all just relish and it's about a are inspired by a real life character whose name was Dorothy Kerwin Thomas. So you can google her. She went by the name doll has a nickname DLL. And she was a freed woman of color, who went from slavery to being the wealthiest and most powerful landowner in the West Indies. So this is all set in like Missouri where she was born to the Dominican to Barbados, and all the way along, she just seems like quite a character. And she seems to leverage men's attentions will work with her Wiles to advance here and there through her life. She's pretty savvy gal. And so that I mean, just by reading the Google account alone is is interesting reading but this novel is apparently very well done very well captured. So it's, it's all set way back in like the 18th century, the 1700s. All of this is going on, but it's also very visual to me if you're talking about the links with the movies, and I think this one, if I'm not mistaken, is a movie that was done in the UK. I don't think we've seen it here in North America yet. But anyway, very Interesting story, one of these powerful women, again, woman of color, which is part of our timely story now as well. And so in the Caribbean, which is kind of an interesting, you know, it's always fun to travel in our books as

Amy Mair:

you read the book or heard about the book read Red Island House by Andrea Lee?

Susan Matheson:

Yes, I haven't read it. But I've certainly seen it. And I think I blogged about it a couple of months ago.

Amy Mair:

So I'm halfway through that. And they sound a little similar. And the premises, there's a woman who she's grown up as a black American, and she marries a guy from Italy, a wealthy guy, and it's, they're mixed race couple. And they go to Madagascar, where he wants to build a dream home. And so through that she's sort of facing down colonialism, race, she's looking at race, her own race in a different through a different lens. And then Madagascar, ours is kind of remote place. And it's about kind of this little bit of magic involved. And it just sounds like there's some parallels there.

Susan Matheson:

Right? Well, it's funny you say that because I did blog. I think it's on this summer, summer list. It's in the spring new releases, or one of these lists that I did. And I remember reading that and then when I saw this book in the bookshop, I was looking at it, and I thought, do I have this already? which shall Yeah, I confess that happens a fair bit.

Amy Mair:

I know, I know,

Susan Matheson:

I think that you've hit the nail on the head.

Amy Mair:

Okay, what's the next one? Okay, well, this one's a

Susan Matheson:

little step outside of the rest of them. I'm not sure if you are a CBC listener, but Terry O'Reilly, who has done the shows Under the Influence and the Age of Persuasion, they're great radio shows. But he's, His focus is on marketing and branding and advertising. And he's just a great storyteller. He gets behind, you know, the scenes and all these things we sort of take for granted. But all these great stories about how business successes have come to be, and mostly focused on the marketing or the advertising. So he's done a couple of books. And he's, he's transformed now over into podcasting were hugely popular podcast. So he is coming out with another. He's written a few, but another new book. I think this is the best cover of a book I've seen in a very long time. Yeah. And so I wrote it down as my biggest mistake. But if you Google it, that will take you directly to my best mistake, because the cover of the book has the word biggest. And then the i g g, or raced like scrubbed out, so it becomes my best mistake. And that's what the book is called, was called my best mistake. epic fails and silver linings.

Amy Mair:

So Oh, I see it. Oh, that's clever. Yeah. You sent me the name. She sent me the name of the books ahead of time, and I thought you gave me the wrong title.

Susan Matheson:

Yeah. No, it's actually my best mistake when you take out the IGA, G. And anyway, this is so interesting, because it's just all I mean, we're all trivia lovers. Maybe we're not all but I'm a huge trivia geek. So I loved like things that he was saying, like the incredible home. Let's try that again. Incredible Hulk, who may or may not have been a hunk, the Incredible Hulk was gray, until there was a printing glitch. And when the printing glitch came back, he was green, and they went with it. So that was a failure that became this huge 60 days and imagine that, I know, who would he be if he wasn't green? So anyway, then he, what are some of the other ones, I can't remember what some of the other ones were. But they what he does, using that, as an example, digs into some of these epic failures in business where somebody made some horrible mistake that's turned into something that's been a massive success. And so it's not just products, either, you know, where a product has lost something and become something better. It's also people people have had epic goof ups and business failings and horrible things happen. And they've reinvented themselves and been prompted to move forward in a more positive direction, which actually brought them maybe even more success than they originally expected. So the book itself will bring you into all of those great behind the scenes stories. But they were also it's kind of an uplifting story and that it, you can can be motivated by it not to not to dwell in your failures, but in fact, to reinvent reinvent yourself and move forward. So I look forward to that one. I think that'll be a very good Christmas book, or gift book for the holidays, and that doesn't release until October 26. So that's coming soon. But put it on your list. I

Amy Mair:

think I am. I looked him up because I didn't know who he was. And I'm like, I do know who he is. And he is excellent. Yeah, he has such. He's got a very unusual voice. And I don't even know how to describe it to listeners. But it's it's a little bit quirky. And he's very, very engaging. And basically, he talks a mile a minute, and he is so entertaining and he loves advertising and knows everything about it. And I'm wondering too, if I would say to people, he's not like Malcolm Gladwell, but I was thinking if you like Malcolm Gladwell, he's got a wonderful podcast. I'm not sure if I've talked about it revisionist history. But I'm wondering if just the kind of the pop culture reference

Susan Matheson:

folksiness to

Amy Mair:

folksiness. That's exactly right. He's folksy. And I think that's a good choice. Okay.

Susan Matheson:

My interest? Well, I and as you say, with his voice, I hadn't thought about that. But I often am leaving somewhere and I'll turn on the radio and I'll just hear just a snippet of his voice. And I have to like, stop and listen to the rest of the show. Because

Amy Mair:

no one else has a voice like him. I can't even describe it. It's anyway.

Susan Matheson:

He does so well with podcasts, like his podcast means great to be on CBC Radio here in Canada, right? broadcast is global. And it's very high. I don't think so. Yeah, there's that. And he also he speaks of what he knows he's been with all the big agencies, then he has that history of, you know, he's been in the business. So he speaks to it. Well, but yeah, there is it. He's charming.

Amy Mair:

Okay, what's the last book?

Susan Matheson:

Okay, the last one. And anyone who knows me knows why I chose this book. It's called freckles. And it's written by Cecilia Ahern. And Cecilia Ahern is an Irish writer. She's actually the daughter of the former Irish Prime Minister. And she is just she's just delightful into herself very useful. She wrote her very first book when she was 21. And that first book was PS I Love You, which was a rom com type. That became a movie with Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler.

Amy Mair:

I did not I thought that movie was so overwrought, I have to,

Susan Matheson:

I have to confess I make everybody if I go away on a weekend with someone on with the girls, I'm like, Oh, we have to watch this. It's just you.

Amy Mair:

Love. Do you love that movie? No.

Unknown:

No way. Yeah.

Amy Mair:

Oh, I gotta be

Susan Matheson:

honest with you, Amy. As I'm like, oh, soaking up every dramatic you know moment. I often look over at the core person I have made watch this and they're not quite as engaged as I am.

Amy Mair:

You know what I actually I actually watch Hallmark Christmas movies. I'm admitting this here. And so I don't think I have much of a leg to stand on. But I think that but I think that movie is super over the top. And anyway,

Susan Matheson:

the entire soundtrack I'm I'm hooked line. And oh, what I also think and it's topic for another day. And I certainly want to blog about this one day is sometimes when we meet the book and where we are in our lives, the book matches and it resonates on a deeper level only because of your personal experience. So I think that I found that book when I needed it. And then the movie was just icing on the yes tissues required. So of course Cecilia here we are talking about this first book she wrote she's gone on to write 17 others so clearly, she has the formula figured out. This one too many of her books have become movies. So that's one another one was love Rosie, which starred Lily Collins, I think you'll stumble across that on Netflix. She her one of her more recent books was called roar. R o AR. And that was actually a collection of short stories, all about women finding their inner power. And Nicole Kidman has picked that up. And that's in production right now to become a movie. But let's get back to freckles. The reason I have put this maybe overwrought book on the list, is that I just thought the spark in the idea that she had for this book is just given me pause and it's so she heard from a friend. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And I just that's one of those What was that? Was it Arsenio Hall or one of those TV guys who had those Hmm, things that make you go to that. And it also made her do it. And she's created this story around this young, freckled Irish girl who's kind of lonely and has an unusual upbringing. And she decides to move to the big city of Dublin. And she doesn't think she has five people even close to her. So she's going to set out and find five people and create a new future. So it's a story of kind of her connection and friendship with all these different people and her own personal transformation. So I don't think this one's going to rock the scientists. But it's, I think it might be a good little story. So from one freckled face to another Alston?

Amy Mair:

Oh, well, that's a good, I like to have a lot of variety there. And that's great. So another great talk with you. And we've enjoyed being with you. I want to thank you so much. And we'll have to

Susan Matheson:

circle back and we chat about all these books. And we I think we've chatted off the screen when at times about how sometimes we need to circle back and see how everybody actually did enjoy the books or not. So make sure everybody comments if they have read it in your views. And

Amy Mair:

that's a

Unknown:

good idea in their personal commentary.

Amy Mair:

Okay. Thanks so much, Susan.

Susan Matheson:

Thank you. Maybe I'll talk to you later, after reading.

Amy Mair:

Thanks so much to Susan Matheson for joining us today. And I wanted to let you know that I have started up a newsletter. You can find information on how to subscribe on social media, I am on Instagram and on Facebook at Red Fern book review. I will also have information in the show notes about how to join and the purpose of the newsletter, there's a couple of things. I'm going to be adding a few extra titles that I don't have time to get to when we're talking or I'm talking on this podcast. I'm also going to have wanted a way to engage more fully with listeners because it is it is a one way conversation I'm talking to you. But I want to hear what you think. So I'm going to have a way for you to do that. And I'm going to read some questions on air and also provide some personalized reading recommendations. And I'm also going to go behind the scenes a little bit in some of the episodes and talk about things that happened once the mic turns off. So thanks, thanks so much for listening and I will talk to you later.