I'm reading a book called Maybe a Miracle by Brian Strause. It's narrated by an 18-year-old-boy who saves his sister after she's found floating face down in a pool. After she recovers she begins performing miracles and healing people who come into contact with her. Whenever I see a first-person narrator done extremely well - and by that I mean a narrator who never really breaks out of character no matter what goes on in the plot of the book - I'm always driven to want to go to my computer and do something just as good as that.I really hope we hear from this writer again in the future. I read an advance copy of a book by Jo-Ann Mapson called The Owl and Moon Cafe [to be released in July]. It's a multigenerational story about a family of women and the trials and tribulations that have got them to the point where they are running a small cafe in Southern California. Nobody does funny female characters as well as Jo-Ann Mapson. It's a departure from her ... "Bad Girl Creek" series. Here's a book I recently read that I really liked. It's called The Distance Between Us and it's by a woman named Maggie O'Farrell that I don't think anyone knows about. It is almost a two-pronged book about a very shiftless woman, who can't seem to find the ground beneath her feet, and a man who has had a complete change of life in the wake of a trauma. Most of the book goes back and forth between these two characters and you're waiting to see how they're going to pull it all together. It was such an interesting book because of how it was executed - to have two completely different lives, completely different characters, in completely different places... you feel them move closer to each other throughout the book. I think readers are going to fall just as hard for these characters as they did for her previous ones. Another book I read, that should be out quite soon, is Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard. She's the author of "The Deep End of the Ocean." (I believe that was the first Oprah Book Club pick.) It's the story of a young Mormon girl whose family and security falls apart after her sisters are murdered. It's ultimately a story about how revenge can be weighed against faith. Like most of Mitchard's books, it's an unbelievable character exploration with a very honest first-person narrative.
... Listening to?
My favorite singer of all time is Aimee Mann. It's my belief that she's a poet who happens to set her poetry to music - her lyrics are unparalleled. My all-time favorite Aimee Mann album is Bachelor No. 2." I recently downloaded the "Curious George" soundtrack because it's [by] Jack Johnson. It picks you up a little bit. It takes you out of your emotions as much as Aimee Mann draws you to the middle of your emotions. The most interesting voice I've heard in a long time is James Blunt. He reminds me a little bit of Jeff Buckley. I have the Wicked soundtrack on my iPod because my children got me completely wrapped up in that musical which we went and saw on Broadway. It's a clever musical. What's fascinating about it is how different it is from the book, too. But they really took some great liberties from the [Frank L.] Baum story.
I just saw The Pink Panther with my children while I was on vacation in Phoenix. I have to say, I had heard so many bad things about it but it was really a delight to see. It was a fun, lite romp.The movie that left the biggest impact on me this season was Brokeback Mountain. I'm a big fan of ellipsis - the idea that writers sometimes run out of words or can't use words to describe what's going on - and so much of that movie takes place between the words. The other movie I saw was Capote, which I saw before it came into theaters because we have a mini "Telluride Festival" here at Dartmouth College, [In Hanover, N.H.] where I live. It was quite fun for me because I was doing a lot of research on death row so my husband started calling me "Jodi Capote!" The movie is really about how writing "In Cold Blood" changed Truman Capote's life to the point where - and I didn't know this - he never finished another book after that. From a writer's point of view, it was one of the few movies that really got writing right. To be able to get that creativity, or lack there of, is a really hard thing to capture. Of course it made me really nervous about my own book.
In terms of TV, I am completely and utterly addicted to Lost. I think it's the best-written show on television. It's probably one of the only truly character-driven shows on television and I don't know where these writers are going but they can take me anywhere they want! I know the payoff is going to be immense one of these days. It's the one thing I religiously TiVo.
The other thing I really enjoy watching is Grey's Anatomy. It really grew on me. It's a really great way to wind down the weekend - it's perfectly placed on the TV schedule. It's such a soapy, frothy thing to watch, but the funny thing is that my husband - who was making fun of me for watching it - always seems ready to watch it come Sunday nights. Besides the fact that he has a crush on [the character] Meredith Grey, I think it's a very appealing show. And, you know, my family has once again got caught up in American Idol. We are probably the perfect pop-culture family because my kids get very interested in how all the contestants sing, although we usually don't get very hardcore until the very end.
• Jodi Picoult's new book is "The Tenth Circle."