Showing posts from July, 2010

Booker Dozen 2010: In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut

The backstory: In a Strange Room is on the 2010 Booker longlist. I downloaded it for my Kindle as soon as the longlist was announced (it has since been shortlisted.) One of Damon Galgut's earlier novels, The Good Doctor, was shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize.

The basics: In a Strange Room is a curious book to describe. It could well be described as both a novel or three stories/novellas. The narrator is the same throughout the stories, and they're heavily connected through theme. None of the other characters or events transcend their sections, but it still felt like a novel to me. Regardless of its structural semantics, it's ultimately the tale of a South African man who travels the world (Africa, Europe and India) forming bonds with his fellow wanderers.

My thoughts: Galgut's writing captured me from the beginning of this novel. When he writes dialogue, he doesn't use quotation marks. Instead, he adds a blank line in between each speaker. He doesn't use ques…

book review: The Quickening by Michelle Hoover

The backstory: Other Press has quickly become a publisher I look to and expect to like all of their titles. When I stopped by their booth at BEA, I knew I wanted to snag a copy of this novel, and I was thrilled when I got it.

The basics: The Quickening is the story of Enidina and Mary, two women with little in common except geography. Both live on a farm and they live near one another in a unnamed Midwestern state in the early 1900's.

My thoughts: Michelle Hoover was born in Ames, Iowa, where my grandmother grew up and where I spent much of my childhood visiting my great-grandmother. She's the granddaughter of four longtime farming families. My roots may not run as deep in farming, but I'm proud to be a sixth-generation Kansan. The Midwest is in my blood, and it shapes my cultural identity. I trace my family to Kansas and Iowa, and enough generations have called those states home that I truly don't think of the countries those first immigrants came from. All of this pers…

The 2010 Booker Dozen: Will You Read With Me?

As I'm sure you've heard by now, the 2010 Man Booker Prize longlist has been announced. I love awards, even when I disagree with the selections, so I was eagerly awaiting the list. The Booker dozen includes thirteen novels this year (there are either 12 or 13 novels on the longlist each year.) I haven't read any of them yet, but two were sitting on my shelves (Room by Emma Donoghue and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet), a few were on my TBR (The Long Song by Andrea Levy, Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey, and Trespass by Rose Tremain), but more half are new discoveries. After looking over the list, I decided to jump in with both feet and read all thirteen longlisted novels this year. I hope to read the longlist before the announcement of the shortlist on September 7, 2010.

One reason I decided to read the longlist is how friendly it is to U.S. readers. Six are already available here:
Four will be published in the U.S. in the next few months: (Skippy Dies: A…

book review: The Last War by Ana Menendez

The backstory: I've read and adored Ana Menendez's essays in Vogue in the past, but I had not read her novels. I had the intention of reading her novels since college, when I worked in a bookstore and got an ARC of In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd, which I moved an embarrassing number of times without ever reading it. I was thrilled to participate in this TLC tour for her latest novel, The Last War. 

The basics: The Last War is the story of Flash, a photojournalist married to a war reporter. The two have lived in wartorn areas throughout their marriage. This passage from early in the novel beautifully encapsulates both Menendez's writing and the characters:
"We were the war junkies: Eros and Chaos, endlessly drawn to the ragged margins where other people hated and died. It was as if we believed constant movement would deliver us finally from the disappointments of ordinary life." (pg. 2)My thoughts: I loved this novel. I was captivated as much by the writing of Men…

a delayed Sunday Salon

I've been absent for awhile around here. It turns out I'm not the only one who doesn't enjoy the heat. My computer hasn't been able to stay turned on. It thinks it's overheating and has taken to turning itself off before it can even finish turning on. I hope it can be fixed, but it's made it quite difficult to keep up with the blog. My husband and are both students, and we still manage to be a one computer (and one car) family. We've been talking about getting a netbook for almost a year now, and I think the time has finally arrived.

Once things are up and running again, I have so much to share with you. I can't wait to weigh in on tomorrow's Man Booker Prize long list announcement. I'm hosting a TLC Tour for Anna Menendez's engaging novel The Last War tomorrow. I hope to have review up soon for The Education of Bet, a beautiful, historical young adult novel by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, The Quickening, Michelle Hoover's promising debut nove…

Blog Tour: The Education of Bet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

To celebrate this week's release of Lauren Baratz-Logsted's most recent novel, The Education of Bet, a historical novel for young adults, she is embarking on a one question interview tour. I loved The Education of Bet (review coming tomorrow), which is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl in Victorian England who impersonates a boy in order to receive a proper education. I'm thrilled to welcome Lauren today! 

My one question:
Bet loves to read. Do you share her taste in reading? If not, why did you choose to her love books you don't love?
Well, I can't say I've ever had to translate a vulgus as she does, but Bet loves her Shakespeare - it's reading Shakespeare to Will's great-uncle and learning to do a range of accents that convinces her she can impersonate a boy's voice - and I love my Shakespeare too. Bet really is a sponge when it comes to books and I'm the same. I read a bit of everything. In fact, it's a good thing books aren't really …

Coveting: Norton Fall 2010

Although I missed out on getting a galley of the new Nicole Krauss novel, Great House, at both BEA and ALA, the good folks at Norton were kind enough to send me a copy. With it, I also received their beautiful, glossy, Fall 2010-Winter 2011 catalog. I couldn't resist highlighting a few of their other titles I am now eagerly anticipating this fall.

All Is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost is the newest novel by Lan Samantha Chang, who is the director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. It seems her experience there ties into the novel too: "At the renowned writing school in Bonneville, every student is simultaneously terrified of and attracted to the charismatic and mysterious poet and professor Miranda Sturgis, whose high standards for art are both intimidating and inspiring. As two students, Roman and Bernard, strive to win her admiration, the lines between mentorship, friendship, and love are blurred." It will be published in September.

Trespass is the newest novel by Orange Pri…

book review: Everything, Lovely, Effortless, Safe by Jenny Hollowell

The backstory: Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe is Jenny Hollowell's first novel. Her short stories have been published in numerous places, and I remembered her short story in New Sudden Fiction, which publishes short-short stories less than 2000 words.

The basics: Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe is the story of Birdie, a young struggling actress in Los Angeles who left her life as a preacher's wife in Virginia to pursue fame. The quote on the cover nails it: "This novel is smart, spare, comic, and sad. It rings beautifully true." - John Casey

My thoughts: Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe is not a novel that grabbed me a reader right away. I enjoyed Hollowell's writing, but it took me quite some time to care about Birdie, the main character. The novel initially reads like short stories, and the shorts chapters in this novel would almost all fall into that category. (The book is 220 pages and has 79 chapters, some as short as one sentence). Unlike the most…

heat wave!

I've been absent this week. I still haven't written my ALA recap. I've been reading but not reviewing. I have a good reason. Albany (and the rest of the northeast) is in the midst of a heat wave. It's ugly. Our usual high temperature has been our low temperature. We're breaking records that have stood for years. Yes, it's July, but we are a city without air conditioning in homes. 98 is too much. To be honest, I detest the heat and 80 is too much for me, but I could handle 80 right now. My reprieve? The best $18 ever spent (and it wasn't even my $18.)
It doesn't look like much, but it's 8-feet wide and 18-inches high. It's perfect. It sits in the shade, so even now, several days into the heat wave, the water is cool. It's so cool it takes me, who loves the cold, several minutes to get inside the pool. Once I'm there, it looks like this:
You'll have to forgive me from my absence from the blog and Twitter. While I won't take my Kind…

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

The third annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week will be held September 13-17, 2010. This year, bloggers have the opportunity to nominate (or self-register) for the awards.

I am self-registering for Best Literary Fiction Blog and Best Written Book Blog.

After quite a bit of thinking about what this blog is, I decided it is a literary fiction blog. It hasn't always been. I aim to review each book I read, and I've been a somewhat eclectic reader. When I took children's literature in the Spring of 2009, I became engrossed in children's and young adult literature and reviewed as many children's and young adult books as adult books. After taking a step back and deciding to read deliberately this year, this blog, too, has changed into a literary fiction blog. Literary fiction has been my favorite genre for years, and I don't think it's a surprise I'm finding my reading more satisfying and engaging since I returned to focusing on my favorite genre.

Here are my…

The Brothers Karamazov Read-a-long

Here at the midway point of the year, I've been doing a good job of reading deliberately. I've read the Orange Prize shortlist and plan to read the longlist. I'm reading mostly literary fiction, but I haven't dabbled in the classics yet. Jill at Fizzy Thoughts is hosting a read-a-long of The Brothers Karamazov, and I'm excited (and scared) to join her in reading this classic. Here are the details
My copy of the K Bros (you’ve got to be kidding if you think I’m typing Karamazov every time) is 776 pages of small print. However, the book is conveniently broken up into 4 parts. And each part has 3 books. That makes 12 books total (plus a short epilogue). It sounds much more manageable like that, doesn’t it?
We’re going to suggest reading a book a week (although if you’re a glutton for punishment and/or a procrastinator, feel free to do all of your reading the night before). But we’re only going to post our summaries/thoughts/pleas for help at the end of each part. Which…