Pittsburgh

After the Fog by Kathleen Shoop

Alright folks.  After a way-too-long hiatus from blogging, I’m [hopefully] back. And with some wonderful books that I must tell you about!

First, “After the Fog” by Kathleen Shoop.  One day recently, I was in the mood to read something Pittsburgh-y.  Wasn’t sure what.  I thought I’d just type “Pittsburgh” into Amazon’s book search and see what came up.  That’s how I found this gem.

From Amazon:

 The sins of the mother… In the mill town of Donora, Pennsylvania, site of the infamous 1948 “killing smog,” headstrong nurse Rose Pavlesic tends to her family and neighbors. Controlling and demanding, she’s created a life that reflects everything she missed growing up as an orphan. She’s even managed to keep her painful secrets hidden from her loving husband, dutiful children, and large extended family. When a stagnant weather pattern traps poisonous mill gasses in the valley, neighbors grow sicker and Rose’s nursing obligations thrust her into conflict she never could have fathomed. Consequences from her past collide with her present life, making her once clear decisions as gray as the suffocating smog. As pressure mounts, Rose finds she’s not the only one harboring lies. When the deadly fog finally clears, the loss of trust and faith leaves the Pavlesic family—and the whole town—splintered and shocked. With her new perspective, can Rose finally forgive herself and let her family’s healing begin?

I’ll just come right out and say it – I LOVED this book.  So many things about it.  First of all, I don’t know if I’ve actually ever been in Donora before.  It’s a town south of the city of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River, for those not familiar.  But there are SO many other little towns like that around here that I could picture it anyway.  Heck, for the past three years, I lived right across the river from a coke plant and saw the smoke and flame every day (most air-polluted borough, not FTW!).  I have ancestors on both sides of my family that worked in the local steel and tin mills.  So I was thinking of what my family members may have gone through as I was reading this book.

Second, I feel like I KNEW Rose and her family.  They could be anyone around here.  Early yinzers, perhaps.  Even though the story took place in the 1940s, I felt like I could really put myself in the story and feel like it was happening “now”.  I also learned a lot about the history of the mills around here.  I had no idea about this “fog” (what we’d now refer to as smog) that happened when this story occurred.  That part is real even though the story is fiction, but some parts of the story and some characters are based on some historical records and stories that Kathleen Shoop was able to dig up.

This book seemed long compared to other books I’ve read recently on my Kindle, but that’s a good thing because I didn’t want it to end!  I can’t say enough good things about this book.  I honestly think it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  The story, the characters, everything just came together.  I’ve already recommended it to a few people and am now telling YOU to go buy/download it if you’re interested in reading Pittsburgh historical fiction.  Kathleen Shoop also has another book out that I can’t wait to read.  I don’t think it’s based in Pittsburgh, but still sounds really good. Check it ‘aht!

There Goes the Galaxy by Jenn Thorson

So you guys probably know my taste in books based upon my reviews here.  I’ve never been one to get into science fiction stuff, whether it’s books or movies.  My suspension of disbelief threshold is very low (and here’s an interesting post about that on Book Riot).  Though, I did read the “Twilight” series, but whatever, who didn’t.  Anyway.  When I was approached to read and review a science fiction book, I thought I’d give it a shot because A) it was supposed to be a FUNNY science fiction book, so that gave me some extra incentive, and B) the author is from Pittsburgh, my hometown.  How can I not want to support a local author?

“There Goes the Galaxy” is about a Pittsburgh grad student named Bertram Ludlow who is abducted by aliens.  Not the short, green, big-headed and beady-eyed aliens, but ones who are somewhat human-like….. but different.  As Bertram spends more time with his abductor Rollie, who comes off at first like a tough guy and that he wants to dump Bertram as soon as possible, he learns that planet Earth (referred to as “Tryfe” everywhere else) is up for sale to the highest bidder.

Bertram goes on a quest, dragging Rollie and his motley crew along, to find the current owner of Tryfe and stop the sale before his planet and human life as we know it isn’t obliterated.  Bertram is helped along the way by a friend of his named Rozz who was also abducted and was forced into alien barista slavery (yes, I said barista.  She slings space drinks).  So, do they succeed?  What’s next for planet Tryfe?

As my first real sci-fi read, I really enjoyed it!  If there wasn’t humor involved, I think my opinion would have been different.  I found myself chuckling when I noticed something that the author threw in there that was a play on a real celebrity’s name or personality, and I think my favorite planet was definitely Ludd… home of the Luddites.  It’s exactly what you think.  The characters were all human-enough to have personalities that you could relate to, and I even found myself liking Rollie, who doesn’t seem to want or need anyone to like him, even though deep down he does have feelings.  The names of the planets and some of the characters got a little confusing, which often happens to me when there are too many new and unique names of things/places to keep track of (the same thing happened when I read the book “Wicked”), but I was easily able to pick back up and understand what was going on with no problems.  The book was also a little longer than I expected and it took me longer than usual to read, but I can’t imagine taking anything out of the book or splitting it up into two because it would completely destroy the story.  Bertram had so many different adventures that you wanted to keep reading to see what trouble he got himself into next.

Jenn Thorson definitely opened my eyes to a new genre that I may not have given a second look to otherwise.  I wonder what’s next for Bertram and Rozz!  Oh, and if you’re on Twitter, Bertram just joined, so you can follow him to get tips on how not to get abducted by aliens (and what to do if you do): @BertramLudlow.

Fleeting Pages – A Pop-Up Bookstore in Pittsburgh

If you don’t live under a rock, I’m sure you know that a very large number of Borders bookstores have closed in the past several months.  One of the targeted stores was the Borders located in East Liberty (in Pittsburgh, PA, if you’re not from around these parts).  A local woman came up with the idea to open a temporary bookstore in the empty space that would focus primarily on local authors or indie authors rather than the mainsteam authors and books that the “big box” bookstores carry.  The store will also hold evening events such as documentary screenings, author readings, et cetera.

Check out this article that was in the Pittsburgh City Paper today about Fleeting Pages: Old East Liberty Borders gets new life as a pop-up bookstore.  The new store opens on May 7th and will be open for four weeks.  Will you be there?  I definitely want to check it out!  This is a really interesting concept and I hope she finds much success in those few weeks.  Maybe that will lead to something else in the future, like a permanent storefront somewhere.

Find out more about Fleeting Pages by visiting www.fleetingpages.com.

Summer Reading Guide

My local paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, just published a list of fiction and non-fiction books for summer called “Summer Reading: From beach blankets to cool mountain evenings, vacation days call for a good book“.   You can click on that link and go and read the whole article and descriptions of each book, but here is a quick list of the books and links to the books on Amazon:

Fiction:

Non-fiction:

Need a last minute Father’s Day gift?  I’m sure a lot of bookworm dads out there may like some of these titles!

Are you going to go out and pick up any of these books for your summer vacation?  Or do you already have a stack of books in your beach bag ready to go?  Please feel free to share your recommendations!

‘Burgh Books

There was recently an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette titled “25 novels use Western Pennsylvania as a setting in 2009” that caught my eye.  I’ve never read any novels that used Pittsburgh as a setting, although I’ve seen a bunch of movies that have (I’m on a kick – my Netflix queue is filled with Pittsburgh movies right now).  When I put this link out on Twitter, I was informed that one of the ones on the list, “American Rust“, was definitely worth a read.  Some of the others on the list look interesting to me, especially the ones written by local doctors.  If you’re a local music fan, you may be interested in the two novels written by singer-songwriter Bill Deasy.

There have been popular books in the past that were based in Pittsburgh, such as “Mysteries of Pittsburgh“, which became more well known when the actress Sienna Miller came to Pittsburgh to film the movie and said some lovely things about the town.  I haven’t read the book (or seen the movie), but someday would like to.

If you just type the word “Pittsburgh” into the Amazon book search bar, over 144,000 results come up (many are about Pittsburgh history or are photo books, but there is definitely something for everybody).  I’m sure that there are so many good books in that list that have gone under the radar.  What books have you read that are either by a Pittsburgh author or are set in the Western Pennsylvania area?  If it’s something you liked, pass the word along… support your local authors and read local!

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.
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