Thursday, April 17, 2014

Meet Donna Tartt

Perhaps you've heard by now that Donna Tartt has won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Goldfinch, her latest bestseller. It's her third novel in as many decades, so even though Tartt isn't a prolific novelist (she doesn't need to be), she's an incredibly gifted one. Even before she stormed onto the literary scene back in 1992 with her first novel, The Secret History, Tartt was already turning heads with her writing. As a freshman at the University of Mississippi at Oxford, her prose garnered the praise of writer-in-residence Willie Morris (My Dog Skip), who remarked to her, "My name is Willie Morris, and I think you're a genius." Perceptive man, that Morris, as The Secret History earned Tartt a phenomenal advance, a bestseller, and a legion of fans. Not too shabby for a first novel. Her second novel, The Little Friend (2002), continued her streak of critical acclaim and proved that she was not a one-hit wonder. As for The Goldfinch, which was described by judges as "a beautifully written coming of age novel . . . that stimulates the mind and touches the heart"? Pulitzer Prize, 'nuff said. 

Tartt makes no apologies for the amount of time she spends crafting her masterpieces. As she puts it, "I would be miserable cranking out a book every three or four years. And if I'm not having fun writing it, people aren't going to have fun reading it. I don't want it to be just some little amusement-park ride. I mean, what's the point of doing that?" She's an artist who wants her readers to lose themselves in the stories and worlds she creates, to experience the sort of immersion one can't really get from the myriad of cookie-cutter and assembly-line novels that often populate the bestsellers lists these days. She likens herself to "a miniaturist--painting a wall-size mural with a brush the size of an eyelash; doing very tiny, detailed work, but over a large space and over a long period of time." An apt description, I must say, and if it works, so be it. After all, ten years isn't too long to wait for a literary masterpiece.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Words of Radiance: An Epic Fantasy Novel

I have been anxiously awaiting the second novel in Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series and I am thrilled that it has been released. If you enjoy epic fantasy novels, you have to try this series. The first novel in this  series is the Way of Kings which was published in 2010. Sanderson wrote his first novel in this series and then went on to complete Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Saga. I am grateful that he completed that series, but I truly wanted to learn more about the world he created and the characters he brought to life in this series. Four years later my wish is granted with the publishing of Words of Radiance. This novel was well worth the wait. 
When I picked up Words of Radiance, I continued my journey into the world of Roshar. I struggled alongside Kaladin as he struggled to find himself and accept who he was meant to become. I was with Shallan as her world changed and life as she knew it would never be the same and I was also with Syl as she hoped that Kaladin would find the right words. There are so many stories and characters within this novel I just keep finding more treasures as I read.  I only hope that it will not take four more years for Sanderson's next sequel in this exciting fantasy series.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What a bear...

I recently read The Bear by Claire Cameron; a highly anticipated second novel from a prize winning writer. The story recounts the horrific event of a bear attack on a remote island in Ontario's Algonquin Park. The story is based loosely on a true event that occurred in 1991 when a couple was killed by a rogue bear in the same park. Cameron chose to retell the event by creating a fictional family rather than just focusing on the couple. The narrative is told through the eyes of the five-year-old daughter, Anna, who witnesses the aftermath of the attack and must rescue and care for her two-year-old brother. The novel is broken into three parts which are all narrated by Anna--every single word. Unfortunately, there is more information in the book jacket and author’s note than is ever provided within the story itself. I can’t help but wonder how the story would convey to a reader who was left with nothing outside of the text but the narrative and the title.
For the most part, the narration of the five-year-old added nothing to the storyline. The ruminations and inner workings of Anna’s mind seemed very contrived and forced. I felt like I was reading a story written by someone who has never experienced a child at this age. Not all children are the same, but I felt like some very elemental things were missing or overplayed depending on the situation. However, I will say that the third part of the novel, the rescue and homecoming of two newly orphaned children, was very profound. This part seemed very logical to have from the child’s perspective in order to express the confusion and residual effects of something so tragic.

The book was a quick read, but it left me unfulfilled. Not all events are suited for creative retelling. This is one story that failed to live up to the promotional efforts. Poor plot points and a contrived voice ruined the promised suspense and intrigue discussed in the reviews. Not to mention, some actions are just too difficult to justify on behalf of the parents when small children are involved in the decision making process. I hate to criticize a book so harshly, but this is one that failed to impress me. I will say that I did finish the book (I had to know what happened to Stick), but little else kept my attention.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The New Latin American Literature--Not Magical?

Juan Gabriel Vasquez
I came across a really interesting article in Wired Magazine called "No More Magical Realism..." and it talked about how literature in Latin America has moved away from the fantastic and more towards the gritty, noir-like, crime novels.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez may not have invented magical realism but he introduced it to the English-speaking world.  He started a "Latin American boom" that flourished into the late 1970s.  When the boom faded, readers wondered whether magical realism could tackle the social and political conflicts of a new generation.

In the late 1990s, Alberto Fuguet helped form a literary movement called McOndo and they declared themselves anti-magical realism.  Then a long list of neo-realist writers like Roberto Bolano began writing hard-boiled crime novels.

And then last year Colombian novelist Juan Gabriel Vasquez's novel about the drug wars branded him as one of the best new writers and maybe even the future of Latin American literature.

He said in the Wired article: "My work is a reaction to the idea of magical realism as the only way to discover Latin America."  And this is something I strongly oppose.  I don't feel Latin America is a magical continent. I feel Latin American history is, if anything, tragedy."  And it's this tragedy that I'm trying to tell in my novel."

So try some of these talented authors and discover the gritty and tragic side of Latin America.

Roberto Bolano--2666 and The Savage Detectives

Edmundo Paz-Soldan--Turing's Delirium

Arturo Perez-Reverte--The Queen of the South

Juan Gabriel Vasquez--The Sound of Things Falling

Juan Pablo Villalobos--Down the Rabbit Hole and Quesadillas

Don Winslow--The Power of the Dog

And the following are available through SearchOhio:

Giannina Braschi--Empire of Dreams and Yo-Yo Boing!

Jorge Franco--Paradise Travel and Rosario Tijeras: a Novel

Alberto Fuguet--The Movies of My Life and Shirts: Stories

Pedro Juan Gutierrez--Cuba (short stories) and Tropical Animal

Juan Rulfo--Pedro Paramo

Martin Solares--The Black Minutes

Fernando Vallejo--Our Lady of the Assassins






Thursday, April 3, 2014

What's so funny?

Need a laugh? Of course you do! Well, I know a book that'll have you almost in tears from laughter: What's So Funny?: My Hilarious Life by Ohio-native Tim Conway (with Jane Scovell). That's right, the very same Tim Conway who once made Harvey Korman wet his pants on The Carol Burnett Show. Honestly, when you read about some of the nuttier exploits of Tim's parents (they're a riot, by the way), you'll realize that he probably couldn't have been anything but a comedian. He started early, cracking up his classmates--often unintentionally--at Chagrin Falls Exempted School, then took his show on the road to Bowling Green State University. Afterwards, a two-year stint in the Army simply underscored the fact that any man who performed guard duty with a three-foot-long fluorescent light tube instead of a rifle wasn't quite suited for a career in the military. Really, the only career a goofball like Tim seemed perfect for was one in show business, and that began in earnest when he became a regular in on The Steve Allen Plymouth Show. From there, he teamed up with Don Knotts to make movies for Disney (The Apple Dumpling Gang, anyone?), then fell in with Ernest Borgnine and the rest of the McHale's Navy gang. Tim headlined a few ill-fated shows of his own, but I'm sure everyone would agree that his most memorable television appearances came courtesy of The Carol Burnett Show. He and Harvey Korman were the best of pals, and Tim lived to make Harvey laugh. Remember Mr. Tudball and the Oldest Man? Pure Conway magic. And surely you remember one of his most famous skits, "The Dentist"? That was the one that made Harvey (and a lot of viewers, I'm sure) wet himself from laughing so hard.

What's So Funny? gives you all the side-splitting details of Tim's extraordinary career in comedy and how he got there. It's the perfect pick-me-up and a great read for anyone in need of a little comic relief. And just like Harvey Korman trying his absolute best not to crack up, you won't be able to stop yourself from laughing!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Angelic Noir

Something More than Night by Ian Tregillis

The story opens up with the death of the Archangel Gabriel, a cynical angel gone native, and the recently deceased Molly, who has been tapped to take the place of Gabriel. It is the story of a murder mystery, of a long con, of an angelic choir, all with enough deceit and misdirection, grit and smoke, to make any Philip Marlowe fan happy.

The story opens with Bayliss, an angel that has been “slumming with the monkeys” down on earth that has been tapped by an unnamed power in heaven to find a replacement for the recently killed Gabriel. For this, he needs someone freshly dead and sets his eyes on a simple pushover. Instead of getting his intended patsy, he offs the spunky sister, Molly. Now the pair have to figure out why Gabriel was murdered, where the powerful Jericho Trumpet is, and figure out what shadowy movers are behind it all.

The 40’s-style slang can be a bit much at times, confusing the dialogue, but is an affectation lends realism to Bayliss and is an entertaining juxtaposition to some of the other angels. Molly’s frantic, bumbling attitude can be a bit tiresome, but eventually her spunky attitude starts to some around for the better. The story has plenty of slow moment, heavy with dialogue but rich with details that paint an excellent noir story.  In all, Tregillis, does an excellent job of blending noir, Augustinian heaven, urban fantasy, and a dash of metaphysics.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

April's In the Queue

Here are April's In the Queue.


Warriors: An Alex Hawke Novel
Ted Bell
As Tensions mount between China, North Korea and the U.S., Alex Hawke and Inspector Congreve must infiltrate China and stop WWIII.
Frog Music: A Novel
Emma Donoghue
In  the sweltering fall of 1876, a San Francisco French Burlesque dancer risks everything to bring his friend's murderer to justice.
Julie Glass
Kit Noonan seeks the father he never knew when his world falls apart. As he searches for answers, he learns what it means to be a father.

Everything to Lose
Andrew Gross
A dead driver and a satchel full of money entangle a desperate mother in a murderous conspiracy to keep a 20-year-old secret buried.
Claire Kendal
This debut novel is a mesmerizing psychological thriller about a woman who fights to escape an expert manipulator who seeks to possess her. Kendal paints a disturbing portrait of compulsion, control and terror. If you enjoyed Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson you will love this book.

Beverly Lewis
Tessie Miller is Amish and although her father disapproves of the man she loves; she elopes with him. She keeps her marriage a secret until an unexpected challenge threatens the couple with censure.
Chris Moore
Moore brings back Pocket of Dog Snogging, his prodigious companion, Drool, and pet monkey Jeff for another round of satirizing the Bard of Avon by way of the Marx Brothers. Prepare for a rollicking play filled with historical whimsy.
Tatiana De Rosnay
Nicholas Duhamel discovers a family secret and in sorting through it writes a bestselling novel. Years pass and Nicholas learns that deeply buried family secrets don’t stay buried for long.
Non Fiction
Diane Keaton
Diane Keaton describes with humor the ups and downs of living in a beauty obsessed world.
Kay Robertson
This is an inside look at the Robertson women, you’ll find both fun and inspirational stories.
Robin Roberts
The beloved Good Morning America anchor shares her incredible journey and the lessons she learned along the way as she battled breast cancer, a rare blood disorder and coped with her mother’s death.
New Releases by Best Selling Authors
The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry
Starfire by Dale Brown
Ghost Ship by Clive Cussler
Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans
Suspicion by Joseph Finder
The One and Only by Emily Giffen
A Family Affair by Fern Michaels
Field of Prey by John Sandford
Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline
All Fall Down By Jennifer Weiner
Carnal Curiosity by Stuart Woods