What's the last Florida book you read?
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What's the last Florida book you have read or what are you reading now? Would you recommend it to the rest of us?
Currently halfway through The Flamingo Rising. I would definitely recommend it.
I loved The Flamingo Rising -- brought me back to my drive-in movie days -- even if they were in western NYS.
I'm on an Edith Pope kick -- she's a St. Augustine author with an early book of poetry and a number of novels. Unfortunately, none of her books are still are print, but Colcorton is available used from Amazon. I read that last summer and intend to read it again. I just finished Not Magnolia -- a glimpse into the lives of coeds in the late 20s at Florida Women's College (now FSU) -- a romantic tale about a young woman who breaks away from the Southern belle stereotype. I've just started River on the Wind (touchstones not working on this one) -- a historical novel about the Second Seminole War which seems, so far, to be mostly set in St. Augustine. I'm trying to hunt down a couple of her other novels -- Old Lady Esteroy and Half-Holiday, if anyone has any leads on them. If you can track down her books, she has a wonderful descriptive knack, and brings early 20th c. Florida to life -- and so far, the Florida of the early 19th c. too.
"The Burnt Orange Heresy" by Charles Willeford. A great noir look at the art world by one of the early Florida crime writers.
River on the Wind by Edith Everett Taylor Pope was fascinating, and it has a curious romantic twist. I'm off to St. Augustine for a couple of days next week, so I want to encounter some of the places she mentions. I haven't heard of The Burnt Orange Heresy -- have to track it down.
"Florida's Miracle Strip: From Redneck Riviera to Emerald Coast" by Tim Hollis. A trip down memory lane regarding tourist attractions of days gone by from Pensacola to Panama City. Also "Spring Creek Chronicles" by Leo Lovel which is a regional book concerning Lovel's memories of growing up and working along Florida's Big Bend Coast.
Just finished Black Sunshine by SV Date. I recommend it. It a novel about Florida politics and off-shore oil drilling with some characters that could be right out of a Carl Hiaasen novel.
I managed to snag a copy of Old Lady Esteroy (1934) from FSU via Interlibrary Loan -- it's an interesting look into the lives of upperclass Floridians during Reconstruction near the end of the 19th c. The old lady herself is a wicked schemer -- determined to revenge her frustrated life and loves. I'd definitely recommend it if it were not so difficult to come by -- Edith Everett Taylor Pope is an author who needs to be reprinted.
Oceola Nikkanochee If you like Dateline mystery kind of things, you may enjoy the introduction. Part of the book is about an English doctor that came to Florida about the time of the 2nd Seminole and became guardian to an orphaned Indian boy. The doctor wrote about a couple of other exploits, as in exploitations. I think it would make a decent dicussion book because it is difficult to tell if he is a saint or a P.T. Barnum.
rareflorida -- this one looks interesting. I just ordered a copy from Amazon. Thanks for the tip.
janeajones -- I hope you are a writer because I saw the book more in line of something that could be rewritten like how Peter Mathieeen took a local legend to create the Watson Trilogy. The book, 'as is,' could use some touch up. It does have some interesting elements but you need your imagination and knowledge of the history to fill in what is missing.
I just finished rereading Colcorton by Edith Pope -- and I hope this touchstone goes to Colcorton and not Brutally with Love (a rather sleazy 1950s pb reprint) -- this is her best book. It was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and is the only one of her books reprinted (by Plume American Women Writers in the 1990s --alas now op, but still easily available). The protagonist is Abby Clanghearne, a woman in her late 30s, descendant of a wealthy Florida trader, whose estate (Colcorton) has fallen in ruins. She has raised her younger brother, Jared -- farming and scrimping to get him through law school. To Abby's dismay, he returns home from graduation, deliriously happy, with a naive 17-year old wife, Beth. But when he comes back from Tallahassee, having done a favor for a neighbor seeking property rights, he is a changed man. I don't want to spoil the plot, but the novel deals with America's racial tragedy, a woman's coming to terms with her own identity, friendship between women, and heartbreakingly, gorgeously described Florida nature. It's amazing that a woman who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis that killed her when she was only 55 could describe hunting marsh hens and trekking into swamps with such detail.
John D MacDonald, The Lonely Silver Rain. I can't recommend MacDonald's books enough. Like Mad Men, but the ad guys have been replaced with a philosophical quixotic tough guy in a Florida that is just starting to get touched by developers and rampant expansion. I have read a few MacDonald books that are just OK, the rest are awesome.
Petals Plucked from Sunny Climes may not sound interesting but you will not find a book that describes pre-Flagler Florida better than this one. The author captures firsthand many events during that time period and her interest in the Seminole Wars brings clippings of history not far removed from her time. I think any writer, teacher, or student of Florida history could find value in this book.
A flash of green by John D. MacDonald was the last one and I had just slapped myself on the back for having and reading ALL of JDM's 82 books when I discovered there were two esoteric non-fiction tomes and a number of magazine pieces he'd written I do not have. No Deadly Drug I knew about and I own, but the house guests is difficult to find under $10.00. I finally found a copy of the gulf coast, where JDM wrote the foreword, and am patiently tracking down the myriad articles this writing maven contributed during the four decades of his career.
I solved that problem if anyone wanted to collect me down the road. I solved it by publishing my first two books a candle in the rain and another world; another time by andy ray to incorporate ALL the extant important writing I did from 1968 through 1998, with the last couple of old short stories inserted in zephyrs, which came out last year.
Recently finished the latest LT ER, Saints in Limbo by River Jordan, which is set in the Panhandle. I must admit I approached this book with some trepidation, given the author's name. I have no idea whether it's her real name or a chosen one, but it certainly gave me pause that I might be entering into an evangelical, fundamentalist Christian propaganda piece.
Thankfully, I wasn't. The novel has some spiritual overtones and a few oblique Christian references, but it's more a rather charming fairy tale than a religious book. On the first birthday after her husband of many years has died, Velma True of Echo, Florida, opens her door to a strange man begotten of a whirlwind. He gives her a birthday gift: a rock -- "It's your last good wish....The one you were making before I arrived. I clearly heard you whisper it from your heart straight up. It was that one --'again'-- but you said it a thousand times." The rock carries Velma into her past experiences allowing her to relive -- and resee -- them.
Velma's story is intertwined with that of her charismatic, ne'er-do-well son, Rudy; her friend Sara Long, a retired schoolteacher; and a young runaway, Annie, who is drawn to seek her past in Echo. Danger also lurks in the shadows in the form of "scouts" who want the rock and threaten those connected with it. But Jordan never really leads the reader to believe that this danger is stronger than the good will and purpose of her characters.
I enjoyed reading the book -- it was quick (I read it in an evening) and entertaining and the characters were interesting and well-drawn. Fairy tales with happy endings are always satisfying.
I recently read Continental Drift, which alternated between Florida and Haiti. I can't say I'd recommend it, though. Maybe it was just the wrong time for me to read it, but I didn't like it. For one thing, I couldn't work up any sympathy for the protagonist, and that surprised me, since Russell Banks has made me care about some pretty deeply flawed characters before. It was ugly and brutal, and I was glad to finish it.
I just finished reading River of Lakes A Journey on Florida's St Johns River by Bill Belleville. It was an excellent read that was a mixture of travel story, nature writing and cultural analysis mixed in one. It was informative and entertaining. It realistically protraryed an area of Florida I am familiar with and very fond of. It made me feel nostalgic and more than a little homesick. It also reminded me what a tragedy has taken place the last 30 years in central Florida in regards to the environment.
Painter in a Savage Land You can see my review on the book page but my main comment is that he should have written the book as Historical Fiction because of the lack of personal material about the artist. He wrote the book as a biography but 50% of the book is stuff I read in Settlement of Florida by Charle Bennett, who Harvey does give ode.
Sun City by Tove Jansson -- a novel set in St. Petersburg by a Finnish author!
Although I hesitate to disagree with the eminent Madeline L'Engle, who in a blurb on the back of the book jacket, declares that Sun City is "an indictment of the American way of old age .... a painful book," that is not what I took away from my reading.
Certainly Sun City is a rather curious book in which little happens in the lives of the elderly denizens of the Berkeley Arms, a boarding house in St. Petersburg, Florida, in the 1970s. Miss Ruthermer-Berkeley, the owner, feels she has a mission: "For her, all that mattered was this: Our guests live here and have a right to expect protection. Outside of St. Petersburg, there are all sorts of evil madness running wild, and we can't help that. But I have a built a house over the kind of madness that is innocent, and it will be allowed to persist in peace for as long as I live."
The residents are eccentric and distanced from family by death or choice: Mrs. Rubinstein, profanely awaiting the monthly letter from her son; mousy Miss Peabody who had bought sunshine with her winnings from the state lottery; the ancient sisters Pihalga; Mrs. Morris, recently arrived from Lincoln, Nebraska; Mrs. Higgins with 14 grandchildren; and Mr. Thompson, the deaf woman-hater. The household is completed with Miss Frey, who keeps the accounts and arranges social activities; Johanssen, the Swedish handyman; Linda, a young Mexican woman, who cleans; and her boyfriend, Bounty Joe, breathlessly awaiting the second coming of Jesus. They wander around St. Petersburg visiting tourist sites, dropping in on cafeterias and bars, and attending the annual Spring Ball in great splendour. The climax of the novel takes place on an excursion to Silver Springs when events that seem to portend disaster turn out to be life-altering in small, but significant ways.
While these old people may seem to be measuring out their lives in coffee spoons, they, in truth, are negotiating telling human relationships. I found Sun City to be a gentle, rather humorous, investigation into a stage of life that is often ridiculed, pitied, or derided. It certainly was not a painful book as Jansson grants all of her characters their own individual dignity.
I'm not sure if this counts but the last Florida book I read was Duma Key by Stephen King. The book's setting is along the West Coast near Sarasoto.
Of course Duma Key counts. Any book set in FL counts -- and in addition, King has a house on Casey Key in Sarasota, so he's a part-time FL resident. I've had this one sitting on my TBR list for a couple of years -- what did you think of it?
24> I'd like to read this one. Matthiessen is one of my favorite FL authors, and the history of this period is fascinating.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter, obvious too see why it went to TV so quick. Great book, humor comes out more than in the series.
It's been a while since I read a book set in Florida, but the one that sticks out in my mind so visibly is To Have and Have Not, by Hemingway. It really made me think of old Florida. Living in Miami these days I wonder what someone would write about Miami now. Somehow, I think Miami has lost its romance--it's more associated with Will Smith's awful Miami song than with Hemingway's Keys.
There are a few places, however, that still remind me of old Florida. Places in central Florida especially...and parts of the keys as well.
Going to start Tide Water Talisman by Glynn Marsh Alam very soon. It is the newest, 8th, in the Luanne Fogerty mystery series set in North Florida. I love this series.
Reading Hell's Bay He did an awkward shift in narrative and some other distractions; which, has made it slow reading so far. I know the phosphate mines near Mulberry make a good target but you may want to check out The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus before being too critical. Necessary evil kind of thing and there is a reason those phosphate free ads disappeared and everything, once again, has the stuff.
Miami Purity Expected a Hitchcock twist but never got it. Lot of sex. Hendricks should get together with Hall Hell's Bay because she's a more talented writer but he had a better story idea. My low opinion of Hall may be due to reading a book in the middle of series, first. Characters just didn't seem well developed. And how did a big boulder get on the Peace river, this is not Colorado.
I just read (okay, flipped through and admired the photos) a book about Henry Klutho and the buildings he designed in Northeast Florida - mostly Jacksonville, but also some in Palatka and I think even somewhere in Georgia?
It's called "The Architecture of Henry John Klutho : The Prairie School in Jacksonville" and is also real interesting for giving bits of Jacksonville history, and also lots of photos of before the Fire. Lately, I've been finding a lot of interest in that kind of thing, since I work so close to the old Cohen Bros department store building that Klutho designed, and it's just gorgeous (I can see it out the windows from my desk).
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell -- review here: http://www.librarything.com/work/9772025
Swamplandia! is an old-fashioned alligator-wrestling attraction run by the Bigtree family on the edge of the Everglades. Although "Big Chief" Bigtree honors the Seminole heritage (their eldest daughter is named after Osceola, the hero of the Seminole Wars), the family has no real Native American heritage. Hilola Bigtree, the star of Swamplandia!'s attractions and mother of Kiwi, Osceola and Ava, has just died of cancer. The theme park has lost its draw, and the family has lost its glue. Facing foreclosure on the park, the family unravels.
Seventeen-year Kiwi, with dreams of attending Harvard, runs off to Loomis County intent on getting an education -- he gets a janitorial job with the rival theme park, Dark World. "Big Chief" goes on one of his periodical decampments to the mainland, leaving the sisters, sixteen-year old Ossie and thirteen-year old Ava, to fend for themselves. Ossie falls in love with the ghost of Louis Thanksgiving, a young dredger from the Depression era, who died when the dredge engine exploded. When Ossie leaves to "marry" Louis, Ava, accompanied by her baby red alligator and the strange Bird Man, goes into the depths of the Glades, looking for the entrance to the underworld to rescue her sister.
Swamplandia! is neither a fantasy nor a young-adult novel. While it teases with elements of magical-realism, it finally is firmly grounded in social and psychological realism. The reality is certainly that of Florida-weird, but it is both probing and delicate. Russell, a Miami native, knows her Florida history and captures the evolution from Florida road-side attractions like Swamplandia! to the mechanized fantasy-world attractions represented by Dark World (whose visitors are known as "Lost Souls"). Her descriptions of both the stark beauty of the Everglades and the grimy attractions of a petty casino-cum-stripclub are precise and evocative.
The narration of the novel alternates, chapter-by-chapter, between the first person of Ava and a third person omniscient with Kiwi. The disconnection among the siblings initially bothered me, but I think that was Russell's intent. The conclusion of the novel perhaps wraps up too neatly -- a minor quibble. Swamplandia! is Russell's first novel, following her acclaimed short story collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, which I have not read; I now plan to. She is definitely an intriguing new voice. 4*
It's been over a year since I read a Florida book. The last one I read was Alligator Gold: A Cracker Western by Janet Post. The Cracker Western series is published by Pineapple Press and they are all good. "Series" isn't actually the right word because each book is written by a different author and each one stands alone; so I guess it's more like a collection. I highly recommend them.
Tropic of Night by Michael Gruber: Cutting out the excess would have helped. I see why he went with the multiple perspectives but he could have cut out much of the back-story to make it more reader friendly. Prepare yourself for dream scenes, flashbacks and other obstacles, like voodoo terminology. Good but some editing would have added a "very," or two onto that good.
About 2/3 through Swamplandia and looking for a way to enjoy it more. Russel has the way with words thing going but it feels like a children's book not suited for children. I suspect she played Pink Floyd's, "Dark Side of the Moon," while watching the Wizard of Oz then started writing. The "magic realism" isn't as deep as something from Gabriel García Márquez but it feels like I'm missing something. I think I would need a literary analysis to enjoy it more.
Mile Zero Example of how not to plot a book. Sanchez had some good prose, but it couldn't save the book.
The Orchid Thief She reports on some real life characters of the Hiaasen type while doing dryer reports about Florida and orchids. People shouldn't expect it to be like the movie version which, focused on the human elements.
I'm a sucker for books set in Florida -- there is always the lure of "Florida weird" hanging about them. But Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel is Florida-normal (if there is such a thing). Frances Ellerby, the narrator, tells the story of her romance with Dennis DuVal and their 25 years of marriage. They met at the Stiltsville (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stiltsville) house built by Dennis's grandfather and continued to spend getaway weekends there for the next 20-odd years. Daniel wonderfully evokes the scenery and nature of Biscayne Bay, but doesn't tell much of a story. Although the book takes place from 1970-95 when Miami was undergoing massive changes, those changes are merely background history -- they hardly touch the middle class life of the Duvals in Coral Gables. I got the feeling that Daniel was writing about what she knows in this, her first novel, but I'm not quite sure what the point of all of it was. It was a pleasant summer read, but not much else.
I finally got around to reading Swamplandia ! Can't forget that exclamation point! I thoroughly enjoyed it and plan to recommend it as a fiction selection for my book club. For the last couple of years each member has had to put three book titles into the "hat"--a fiction, a nonfiction, and a classic. That has worked so well that we are continuing that system for our new year, which begins in August.
The last Florida book I read was a reread of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I definitely recommend it. The writing is absolutely gorgeous!
Finished reading stiltsville a couple of days ago. Janeajones, above, gives a good summary. The book started out pretty good, but after Fran and Dennis got married I had to push myself to keep reading. Their story was not very interesting or compelling. I kept waiting for something to happen. Things keep almost, but not quite, happening to them. Dennis didn't do as well financially in life as had his father, but he reaped the benefits of his parents' wealth. He and Fran had use of the Stiltsville house, and eventually his parents gave their mainland house on a canal to him and Fran. Pretty cushy life, actually, with a few bumps along the way, until Dennis becomes very ill. But even then they are surrounded by friends and family who lend Fran a hand, and Fran begins to seem like a bit of a whiner. I had a hard time feeling sorry for her. Biscayne Bay is the best character in the book.
Florida Gothic Stories Hendricks show potential but I can't identify her primary weakness. Ab OK read but she didn't make me crave to read more.
The Culprit (http://www.librarything.com/work/book/94017485) by Rich McKee is an erudite, Florida-weird, romantic satire. Widowed professor Sean McDuff disgusted with the meddling of Florida politicians in the higher education system, diagnosed with a fatal disease, decides to make his final statement by car-bombing a (politically appointed) Board of Trustees meeting at his state college campus in south-west Florida. But a favorite student appears at the meeting and he....
Read the book. It's a quick roller coaster ride through the contemporary Florida scene.
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