Star Wars The Adventures of Luke Skywalker (picture book) is a great way of introducing the young ones to the first part of the Star Wars…Add a Comment
Star Wars The Adventures of Luke Skywalker (picture book) is a great way of introducing the young ones to the first part of the Star Wars…Add a Comment
Japanese Comickers Magazine features some of the hottest artists from Japan. It’s a great way to take a look at all the different styles and…Add a Comment
Book Review 2016-006
Hesitation Wounds by Amy Koppelman
2015 by The Overlook Press, 187 pages
(I purchased a copy of this hardcover when it came out late in the fall)
(There are a plot spoiler or two in this review--couldn't really figure out how to keep them out)
Amy Koppelman might be the bravest writer I know. She writes of difficult subjects--specifically various forms of depression--and does not shy away from any aspects of the disease. Her debut, A Mouthful of Air (MacAdam/Cage, 2003) told the story of a new mother suffering from postpartum depression. Her follow-up, I Smile Back (Two Dollar Radio, 2008), followed a married mother as she tried to work through her bi-polar depression through searching for wider ranges of high excitement. In each of these cases, Koppelman chose to allow the reader to feel as close to what it feels like to have either of these forms of depression by digging deeply into their minds. Not simply implying or stating that they were feeling dark, but expressing exactly what they were feeling and how their actions might help or hinder any development toward their improvement.
In Hesitation Wounds, while still dealing with the subject of depression, Koppelman has switched points of view and has as her main character Susanna Seliger, a renowned psychiatrist working with patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression. Koppelman gives us the thoughts from one who helps battle depression for others, and not one battling herself. And while depression, specifically of two individuals, plays a prominent role in this novel, Koppelman has really tackled grief and memory in Hesitation Wounds.
The novel begins with Dr. Seliger in an airport--she's recently received a phone call from an adoption agency suggesting they believe they've found her a daughter. Without much warning the narrative goes into her remembering a patient, Jim, telling her a story. It's something Koppelman does very well in this novel--she changes time frames and what one might refer to as scenes freely and while the time span covers some nearly 30 years, the novel is mainly written in the present tense. However, Koppelman's writing is so crystal clear, it never takes more than a sentence or so for the reader to realize that a switch has been made.
The patient, Jim, is undergoing ETC (electroconvulsive therapy) as what one would have to consider a last ditch effort to battle the voices that have been in and out of his head for years. At this time he's in for his last treatment. He's middle-aged, married, has a couple of dogs, and is a freelance writer. As this afternoon comes to an end, Jim is headed off with his wife and Dr. Seliger runs slightly late to meet Evan for dinner at an Italian restaurant. I don't remember it being clear at the moment of this meal, but it comes out later that the two are in a long-standing relationship but not married. During the meal, right after Susa (her childhood nickname) tells Evan that she loves him, he lets her know that he impregnated a waitress on his last trip out of town. Which leads to their relationship ending and throughout the rest of the novel has Dr. Seliger remembering incidents from this and other relationships.
Getting back to grief and memory--Jim ends up succumbing to the voices and hangs himself. Something about his death really brings to the forefront Susa's memories of her brother Dan, dead now some 28 years. While Dan didn't necessarily commit suicide, Susa's memories have her convinced that he was suffering from depression, was offering her clues, and that her hesitation to act upon them allowed him to not prevent himself from dying in a fire. While he may not have planned out a suicide, from his best friend's (Ray) description of the event, Dan didn't do very much to stop it from happening once he realized what was going on--in fact a little grin crossed his face upon that realization. And Susa has been suffering from his loss ever since.
The novel spends time in the 80's, back before Dan died, times when he and Susa and Ray (and at times 2 or 3 others were mentioned but not strongly) spent time getting high, talking about the two boys going out tagging--this in NYC when it wasn't shiny like it is now. It spends more closer to current time with Evan and Dr. Seliger. There's time not so long after Dan dies that Susa and Ray have a long relationship, moving in together. It also leaps to what would seemingly be the future considering the starting point of the novel, a time where Dr. Seliger has adopted a nearly five year old Cambodian named Mai. Much of it is in the form of Susa talking to her deceased brother, and, in this way, it feels as if she's speaking directly to the reader.
Throughout each different time period (beyond that when Dan is still alive), Susa constantly grieves for Dan. The levels vary, and the things that trigger her grief aren't consistent. What also varies, albeit slightly, is how Susa remembers things. She seems to be letting her memories convince herself that Dan was trying to signal to her that he was suffering, that he was going to do something about it, and that she could have done something to stop from happening what eventually did. Especially after her patient Jim's final actions.
If instead of calling you crazy I said I was willing to go with you, would you have waited for me? Could I have saved you? Could I have?
At one point she even wonders if she continues to think about the past will she be able to keep track of what is memory and what is real.
Koppelman's writing also needs mentioning here. To call it spare is not an overstatement. In the sections that are not dialogue, one imagines that Koppelman must have done a lot of deleting during revisions until she found just the right words, just the right number of syllables, just the right structure:
I can feel the pages of the book against my thumb. A paperback. The edges worn. Dog-eared.
The above is a typical paragraph. No lengthy, descriptive, sentences. Information chopped up and offered piecemeal. Between that and the time jumps but keeping everything in the present tense, the book really flies by. I read it in two sittings and if I didn't have to stop in between I wouldn't have. People frequently tell each other to work through their grief--it will get better. What Koppelman shows through Dr. Seliger is that it might not necessarily really get better, but when you can find other things to keep your thoughts busy, that grief isn't the main focus of your attention. While the topic isn't the brightest, the writing and structure are so fantastic that it's truly a great read.
5 starsAdd a Comment
Since 1933, the Disney Golden Books has been one of the most popular children’s books series of all time. The classic stories matched with beautiful artwork…
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The Art of Epic Mickey is a 160-page hardcover landscape coffee table book written by Epic Mickey co-writer Austin Grossman and features a forward by Game Director…
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Papertoy Monsters is a collection of 50 cool paper monsters you can put together using scissors and glue. Each monster is rated by difficulty level,…Add a Comment
(While I am sure I received a galley of this from the publisher when it came out, I bought the copy I read from Literati in Ann Arbor)
Somebody out there smarter and better read than I am has probably put together a list of wonderful writers that were brought to the reading public for the first time by the duo of Greg Michalson and Fred Ramey in their various publishing incarnations (William Gay, Steve Yarbrough, Rick Collignon, Masha Hamilton, Andrea Portes, Virginia Pye, Frederick Reuss for starters), and while it took me six years to get to it, I'm very glad that Peter Geye was added to that list. Safe From the Sea is a great read on many levels. There's a great father-son story; there's at least one great husband-wife story within; there's a not quite coming-of-age aspect to it; and smack in the middle there's a page-turning aspect that would make most suspense writers happy. It also is a wonderful representation of Midwest writing.
What Geye has really done though in my mind, is taken a somewhat familiar premise--dad and son not speaking so much for many years, dad let's son know he needs help/is dying, they pretty much work through things before dad dies--yet created a novel in which his readers will find themselves flipping the pages rapidly, caring about the characters--not just those two but the others that sit more on the peripheries--and not find that everything fits together in the end like it was just a well-conceived jigsaw puzzle.
The novel begins with a prologue that I believe actually works. Too often a prologue simply to me seems to be chapter one with no reason to be singled out. However in this work, the prologue occurs many years before the current time. It has one of the main characters, Olaf Torr (the father) working on a ship in the Great Lakes, talking to a co-worker about the fact that his wife has just recently (nine days) had given birth to his son, Noah (the son). In a scant few pages the reader learns quite a bit about Olaf, about his work as an officer on the ship headed for the Soo, on his thoughts ("sad and beautiful") about his missing his wife and child.
The novel proper begins with Olaf calling Noah, who he really hasn't spoken to since attending Noah's wedding to Natalie some six years earlier. He asks Noah for help, which might stun him even more than the fact that the old man has called in the first place. A quick side story develops as Natalie is pretty horrified that Noah is even considering leaving as they've been trying to have a child regularly and she's ovulating. Noah's taking off creates at least two potential issues of tension--he and his father, and the obvious tension with Natalie.
What transpires between Noah and Olaf is extremely well done. There's no big blow up scene between the two of them, there's no big make-up scene. Their conversations begin slightly stilted and develop throughout the novel. Noah realizes just how bad off Olaf is as the two of them fish and work a bit around Olaf's very out of the way home in Misquah, a good hour outside of Duluth, Minnesota. Noah, who owns and works in a vintage map store, takes at the very least a small liking to the physical work necessary around the place--the chopping of wood, the crisp weather, even going to far as to do something he never was considered man enough to do before he left, something he'd only seen his father and grandfather do, bathe in the lake--the water cold enough to shock your body into not breathing upon entry. It's this subtle transformation of Noah that I consider to be a not-quite coming-of-age story.
Throughout the novel, Olaf and Noah treat each other more like men than they do father and son. The father-son dynamic is present, but with Noah needing to do so much to help Olaf, there's just enough of it pulled back to allow Noah to act closer to an equal to his father than as a son. Make no mistake, there is still that presence of a son wanting to please his father, wanting to make him proud, but it's not over the top.
There's something about this man to man aspect their relationship takes that allows some things that occur to make more sense than they otherwise might. A monster component to this story is the fact that the ship Olaf was an officer on in the prologue, the Ragnarøk, sank in Lake Superior. Olaf was one of three survivors. From the moment they were rescued he lived life differently--he drank too much, quit properly communicating with his family, became much more withdrawn. This led to his wife cheating on him with their neighbor, to the kids, Noah and his sister, Solveig, growing up confused to say the least, and shut out from him. While Noah is in Misquah, he asks Olaf about that night--quick aside, the day he arrived in Duluth, he visited a Great Lakes Shipping Museum and had reviewed a section on the wreck of the ship, including a photo of the crew including his father--and where I'm not so sure Olaf would have shared the story were Noah acting the petulant child, his going along with the conversation seemed to fit.
This would be the page-turner aspect of the novel--it's hard to believe that Peter Geye didn't spend some time on freighters in the Great Lakes as a young man. He's either very well read on the topic or listened to a lot of old yarns in bars over the years, but his description of the storm hitting Superior while the Ragnarøk was cutting across, and how the men worked to get through, and the details of the various rooms, and the ice on the deck, and the lifeboats, and beyond is riveting. It's a lengthy section of the novel and it is subtly interspersed with Noah either having recollections, or having realizations about his father--about this event and how it affected the old man. While they've seemingly been doing okay together, hearing this story direct from Olaf is what pushes their relationship to being truly back to solid father-son ground. Especially when it hits a point, after telling of their rescue, when Olaf admits:
“For most of your life I’ve used that night as an excuse. Not because I wanted or needed one but because I had no control over what it did to me. I should have. Hard as it would’ve been, I should have beaten it.”
It's a pretty astonishing admission and it comes across in a simple fashion. And this is what brings me to the Midwestern aspect of Geye's novel. And it's not surprising, Peter Geye was born and raised in Minnesota and resides there now. This novel is not flashy in any way. The language is straightforward, and there's a strong element of work ethic within. It's a trait Midwesterners are rightly proud of--you get up, put in a hard day's work, and go to bed exhausted. There is also that feeling of needing to beat back the elements that try to slow you down--the weather, downturns in the economy, jobs being sent elsewhere, and even things like a huge storm over Lake Superior causing you to be one of three men to survive a shipwreck and fire.
Geye has again taken a pretty standard fiction trope and created within that trope a story that is anything but standard. It is powerful in the emotions it brings forth, especially with the lack of flash invoked. Even the story of the shipwreck works through in a straightforward manner. The shipwreck aspect might keep this from what I would call a quiet novel, but just barely. This is a novel full of events, but they don't feel eventful; they feel more like every day life than again, the idea of a well-conceived jigsaw puzzle. Once again, Greg Michalson and Fred Ramey, this time via Unbridled Books, have given readers their first taste of a wonderful writer in Peter Geye. I look forward to reading much more of his work over the years.
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I just discovered The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale with illustrations by LeUyen Pham! I'm in extreme LIKE!!! This series for our youngest chapter book readers is funny and feeds into the princess-mania that makes some grandmothers - those who came of age in the 1960s, for instance - break out in rashes. Princess Magnolia is dimply, pink and perfect UNTIL the kingdom's goats are threatened by MONSTERS. And then, she and her unicorn, Frimplepants, transform into an amazing duo of monster repelling powers. I love the name Frimplepants. Just saying.Add a Comment
Hurts Like a Mother: A Cautionary Alphabet by Jennifer Weiss and Lauren Franklin (Illustrated by Ken Lamug) (Doubleday) Fifty-three years after Edward Gorey’s delightfully subversive alphabet…
The post HURTS LIKE A MOTHER Featured in NEW YORK POST Must-Read Books appeared first on RABBLEBOY - The Official Site of Kenneth Kit Lamug.Add a Comment
(I requested and received this review copy from WSU Press)
Desiree Cooper's Know the Mother is one of the most singularly focused short story collections I've encountered that wasn't really a novel-in-stories, or a collection of stories about a specific character or entity. Cooper's focus is women, and while she covers a very wide range of women, there's no doubt that, while wildly different in many aspects of life, in a world where racism is at least being discussed rather openly, sexism remains prevalent without discussion, even coming from those that love us most, and it touches them all.
There are 31 stories in this collection and while I see from her biography that Cooper was a founding board member of Cave Canem, a national residency for emerging black poets, and so one would believe a lover of poetry, I can't help wonder if her having been a columnist for (I'm guessing here as one who used to read her work in Detroit) at least a decade isn't somewhat responsible for her ability to hone in on her subject and not waste a word in the numerous flash fictions within this collection. And much as I really love the two longer stories in the collection, "Reporting for Duty, 1959" and "Night Coming," I really think she shines most brightly in the flashes that are a page or less in length.
The collection begins with "Witching Hour," a half-page effort that asks seven questions including the collection opening:
Why do we wake each night in that spiritless moment between worlds, we mothers and daughters and wives?
The story and seven questions serve as a great introduction to the book as Cooper gets the reader thinking about women and the expectations they put upon themselves, or have had thrust upon themselves, right away. The stories that follow have women of all kinds--those taking care of ailing parents, mothers of young children, wives early in their marriages, young single women, older single women, women in happy marriages, women in unhappy marriages, mothers of boys, girls, heterosexuals, and lesbians. Women struggling to stretch every penny and women living in the nicest neighborhoods. And Cooper seems to inhabit each type of woman perfectly with her words.
The questions asked of these women, the pressures put upon them, from the outside or from within their own selves, should shock, until one really contemplates our world today and the knowledge that this is really still how it is out there. The story "Ceiling" ends:
"If you wanted to have babies," he said, smiling gently, "why did you go to law school?"
Another story, "Cartoon Blue," about a woman working at a law firm includes:
The ladies' bathroom has only two stalls. No one deemed that more than a handful of women would ever work here.
And it's not just women that work that are forced into stressful positions. In perhaps the longest story in the collection, "Reporting for Duty, 1959," Joyce is the African American mother of two, driving cross country with her husband who is an Air Force Sgt. Again, it's 1959 and the older of her two sons pushes the dad into stopping to try to get a room at the Holiday Inn he's been seeing commercials for (big tv's and swimming pools!). Though the sign says Vacancy, it's apparent through the car and lobby windows to Joyce that things aren't going smoothly inside:
Joyce had been watching, too, her hand holding the door handle so tightly that blue veins popped up like Highway 10 on Junior's road map. She bit her lip nervously and turned to the boys.
The things men take for granted aren't always obvious either, from "Origins of Sacrifice""
Jim steered with one hand, driving into the quiet evening, preoccupied with important things. Kate stared jealously at how easy driving was for him--like an extension of breathing. Because she had been put on bed rest--and then had a C-section--Kate hadn't been able to drive for months. She tried to remember that feeling of absolute, one-handed control.
Cooper isn't just succinct with her usage of words, but has strung together many powerful, beautifully written sentences:
Junior stared at his father, at the steadiness of his father's eyes on the road, the patience of hismouth, the stripes on his sleeve, the eagle insignia on his hat.
Beneath me runs a clotted river. The water is red. The walls are cooling-board brown.
But she stared back, her feet planted and steady, the queasiness fading into resolve.
He fled into the night, the falling snow erasing his footsteps.
The women in Know the Mother are strong, even when it might outwardly appear they aren't. They carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and nobody stops them from doing so--even their own mothers. While this collection might be read more frequently by women, hopefully it will fall into the hands of many men as well.
4 starsAdd a Comment
Wow, loved S.J. Kincaid's THE DIABOLIC so much. I strongly recommend this standalone action-adventure thriller, especially if you're a fan of Erin Bow's THE SCORPION RULES. Fantastic world-building and character relationships.
What I especially enjoyed about THE DIABOLIC:
- Wonderful world-building, as mentioned above. I'm a big sf nerd and come across lots of books with great world-building but whose characters are flat and seem to be mainly props to move the plot and support the world-building. With THE DIABOLIC, I fell in love with the main character right away ... despite the fact that she is a bioengineered killing machine (another fact I adore).
- The diverse and entirely believable character relationships. Especially enjoyed the complex bond between the main character and her friend Sidonia.
- There were strong female characters throughout.
- Plot twists and political intrigue. I've never considered myself a fan of political thrillers, but got totally sucked into the political maneuverings in this story because of the great characters.
You can find out more about how S.J. Kincaid's THE DIABOLIC got published in this Publishers Weekly article.Add a Comment
(I believe B.J. might have arranged for a review copy--or I might have bought it--do not remember)
"What you're about to read is not a conventional book." I do not believe B.J. Hollars could have started this work more appropriately. I have read this book straight through at least twice since obtaining a copy back in 2014 and frequently pick it up and skim through to read one or two of the incidents. Part Wisconsin Death Trip (that's the obligatory comparison), part Lee Martin's Turning Bones, part season five of The Wire, all wrapped up into a wonderful 100 stories of less than a page apiece.
Hollars, who has previously published two more straightforward non-fiction titles, sub-titled this one, "Reporting the Fiction of Nonfiction." In his Author's Note/Introduction, Hollars notes that he tells his students in his nonfiction classes that "most facts--even those offered neutrally--are about 75 percent true and 25 percent false." This bringing to light of the "Fiction of Nonfiction" is pretty fascinating and the whole Author's Note should be used as an essay for other nonfiction classrooms.
It seems it's not very safe to be around the rivers of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Numerous drownings over the years. One thing B.J. Hollars does very, very well is research. It was very apparent from his first two works, and comes through loud and clear here too--though in a different path. Where his previous two works led Hollars to research specific incidents and people and the horror that is lynching, this noticing of drownings led him down a path of researching journalism to a degree. That is, while researching area drownings over the years, Hollars noted the various styles that were taken in the reportage of these incidents. While Hollars is sure that no liberties with the truth were intentionally taken, he noticed words like "supposedly" inserted when discussing either how, or why, the deceased might have been in or near the water in the first place. He noticed that the journalists themselves were never eyewitnesses and so at best, at the very best, the accounts were second hand--counting on both the memories of those that did witness things, and the perfect communication between said witness and the journalist.
What Hollars has done is found numerous drowning incidents from the time period of 1875 through 1922. He's researched the drownings, either from single or multiple written sources, read and re-read the accounts and then re-written them, using his own memory of what stuck out from the original reportings. While still essentially nonfiction, it throws in one more aspect of non-reliability. To me, this would be a fascinating enough experiment in writing and thinking about nonfiction and its complete veracity. However, Hollars wasn't satisfied to stop there.
Instead he adds two more elements--the first is photographs. He's found what can be considered appropriate photos from the collection of Charles Van Schaik (yes, the photographer whose work Michael Lesy used for his seminal Wisconsin Death Trip, hence the "obligatory" comparison). and as his author note notes--"...we must remain cognizant that the photographer still decides what to reveal or withhold." Add to that the fact that Hollars has then cherry-picked the photos he wants to use with specific drowning accounts, for whatever reasons he chooses, and you realize that as the reader, you're being nudged by Hollars' choice in Van Schaik's photographs, as well as Hollars' version of the original reporters account of the incident. 75% true seems to be a best case scenario.
Then the second element--in keeping with his own 75/25 theory, Hollars has manufactured 25 drownings. That is, of the 100 accounts of drownings in this book, only 75 come from Hollars specific research. Now, I have no doubt whatsoever that the 25 that he invented also were affected by his research, they were not taken from specific drownings of the past as the other 75 were. And having read this book straight through twice, and dipped into it more times than I can count, I couldn't even begin to try to suggest to you which 25 are the more manufactured of the 100 manufactured works within these covers. Not one jumps out at me, let alone 25.
It's a fantastically creative work, with what I find to be a tremendous germ of an idea--the Fiction of Nonfiction--truly followed up on by hard work, great creativity, and the fact that B.J. Hollars is one hell of a writer.
4.5 starsAdd a Comment
1. The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce was sooo good. But the author's note at the end was almost as good as the book!
Rory Rooney has been thrown off the bus by Tommy-Lee ever day. Still, when Tommy-Lee has an extreme allergic reaction from eating Rory's lunch - without Rory's permission, I might add - and Tommy-Lee is taken away in an ambulance, everyone blames Rory!!! Tommy-Lee's friends throw Rory into a stream and when he stands up, Rory is completely green. Now, it's his turn to be carried off to the hospital.
But Rory is prepared. His favorite bedtime story is his mother's book, Don't Be Scared. Be Prepared. Rory's mom is all about being prepared.
Rory is in the isolation ward at the hospital. But he's not alone. Oh, no.... he and his roommate are in for astounding adventures of the superhero-ish sort. As London squirms in the grasp of the Killer Kitten virus, two - or is it more? - green children prepare to Save The World.
Need a break from whatever ails you? This book will help.
2. For another look at lunacy, we have Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky.
Four Fans of the Ruperts - a boy band - somehow end up with one of the Ruperts, tied up in their hotel room. Fangirl fantasy come true!! Squeeee, or whatever. His phone alone is a treasure trove of awesomely...oh no, what's this?? And when the narrator comes clean about the whole event, who will pay the price of the long night's misadventures?
The lunacy in Moldavsky's book is creepy. I ended up skimming the book because:
1. The teens are unbelievably shallow, narcissistic and cruel.
2. It's a little too mean to be funny, I think.
That said, I am NOT a teenage girl. It is way too long since I screamed over a boy band. Back then, social media was a phone with a long cord and my Mom's kitchen timer. So, what do I know? Right? Definitely for teens. And the fans on Goodreads like it a lot. Dark humor, they say.
3. The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks. In a medieval city in the Orient, Kaidu is learning to fight. The city has changed hands so often, that its natives call it the Nameless City. Kaidu is part of the conqueror's army. When he ventures into the city, he meets a girl who calls herself Rat. They don't trust each other but Rat shows Kaidu things about the City that he can't learn behind the fort's walls. When a threat comes from inside the fort walls, Kaidu and Rat must work together as a team.
This graphic novel moves so seamlessly that I didn't notice the lack of words. Actually, as I type this, I realize that since reading this book, action scenes in text books take so long. No wonder graphic novels are so hot. Thanks, Faith Erin Hicks, for furthering my understanding of this genre.
4. An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet. This book had to be read, word for word. The struggle between Halfrida and her sister, Marthe, and their fight to keep their farm needs to be explained. An artist might be able to show the pain, anger, stubbornness and pride on each young woman's face but Bobet's words made this stew of emotions all too real to me. Insert these women into a war ravaged countryside, with a missing husband, and strange unearthly beings and you get a fantasy that speaks volumes about how people do and do not get along.
There is the mystery soldier who asks for somewhere to stay; the unearthly creatures; the aftermath of a war against the Wicked God; the search for a missing hero; Marthe's pining for her husband; Hallie's secret-keeping and her fear. Also a fledgling romance and three cheers for scientific method and investigation. (Sentence fragment, I know. Deal.) There's some heavy stuff going on in this book. I liked it!
I finished You Were Here by Cori McCarthy the other night and it was so satisfying! Told in alternating voices, this is a story of grief and stubbornness and the need to put the past to rest. Serious stuff! McCarthy's mix of characters, words and graphics spins this book right along.
I worried at first that this would just be another "dead family member" book. Then it morphed into a book about meeting unrealistic expectations and then it turned into a graphic novel and the whole time this group of five teens are fighting, musing, obsessing, and engaging in risky behavior - lots and lots of risky, perilous, dare-devil behavior. (Definitely Teen Readers!)
So read it. It is emotionally manipulating, but most good books are. And the resolution is realistic and, as I mentioned before, satisfying.
The Wrinkled Crown by Anne Nesbet is a wrinkled book. Linny lives in Lourka where no trail is a straight line - or even the same from trip to trip. Here stories can change reality. When Linny breaks the most sacred taboo in the hills, her best friend and tether-twin, Sayra, is the one who pays the price.
Linny takes her forbidden lourka - a stringed musical instrument - and runs away to the Plains to find a cure for Sayra's fading away illness.
Linny and her friend, Edmund, are caught up in a civil struggle between a faction that believes everything should be mapped, straight, smooth and mechanical - and a faction that honors magic and wrinkles of all sorts.
I ended up skimming and, alas, skipping. If I had more time I may have enjoyed the arguments and adventures and authoritarian quasi-villains. The book is as wrinkled as its title. But it is a solid beginning of a new magical trilogy(?) or series. (Grades 5 through 7, though younger readers with skills and stamina will enjoy this book.)
2016 via Melville House Books (eBook purchased)
While I own A Highly Unlikely Scenario, I did not read it right away when I picked it up and in all honesty, am not sure where it is right now. When Rachel Cantor starting posting about a second novel forthcoming, I made sure to pick up a copy (ie, ordered the eBook) and set aside time this past week to make sure I read it. If her debut was nearly as good as this one, I should be downstairs digging through boxes for as long as it takes me to find it.
Cantor has written a novel that is both Academic in nature, as well as a quick-paced, interesting story. Academic in that it involves literary translation, explanations of Dante, as well as delving into Judaism, the Bible from a Catholic point of view, as well as external religious texts. In Shira Greene, Cantor has created a very normal person--selfish, loving, hopeful, negative, and just about everything else that a person could be. The novel starts with her as a temporary worker at a prosthetic limb provider. She's mid-30's,living with her childhood (from age 15) friend who is a University professor, and therefore is provided with a large family-sized apartment as he's the stated (though not blood) father or Shira's daughter, Andi.
Shira has been an English grad student when the love of her youthful life inadvertently exposed himself to be deeper in another relationship than Shira had understood him to be. This led to her to be unable to read Dante at all, let alone continue on with her dissertation and translation efforts. She had even published some short fiction but had pretty much set all of that aside to concentrate on trying to temp her way to a full-time position somewhere.
Out of the blue, a very recent Nobel winning poet, Romei, contacts her to tell her he wants her to translate his forthcoming work from Italian to English before it' is even published in Italian. It's a dream-come-true job and as one might expect, as in many such cases, the job really isn't as dream-come-true as she'd like to have hoped.
A very smart move on Cantor's part was to have Romei send his work to Shira in sections. This allows her to read it, and while thinking about it to herself, explain both Romei's work, as well as Dante's work, to the reader. It's done in a manner that allows the reader to learn more and more about Shira, Ahmed (the friend), Andi, Shira's past, as we read on. We get to understand this unconventional family. By breaking the novel into these pieces though, Cantor doesn't have one big Italian work being translated straight through. Instead, we're there as Shira somewhat selfishly delves into the work deep enough to not notice some issues Andi is having, worries that are hitting Ahmed, and we get to see her budding potential romance with part-time Rabbi Benny, who is also the local bookstore owner.
We get to see Shira go from giddy with how this project would jump start her career, to curious about certain things Romei was doing, to worrying that the work was not translatable, to believing Rome was sabotaging her career intentionally for reasons she couldn't understand. The relationship Shira develops with Benny is useful, not only to allow readers to dip into that aspect of Shira's life, but also because as a very well-read part-time Rabbi, Benny is able to help Shira with some of the translation aspects as Romei drops religious references and brings up other texts that Benny is familiar with.
The fact that Shira is working on a big translation can hardly be considered an accident. One of the bigger themes of the work seems to be the idea of misinterpretation and how simple it is to do so and the many ramifications of such. While not coming straight out and ever pointing such an incident out in the "story" portion of the novel, Shira explains numerous times throughout the Romei-heavy sections just what her process would be as she translated his work, and how to do her best to avoid misinterpretation.
The story has many twists throughout, while there might be early worries that Cantor's going to be too academic, or that not having read Dante thoroughly might detract from the reading, neither could be further from the truth. And saying the story is good is cutting Cantor's efforts short--there are at least 3 or 4 solid story lines being merged throughout Good on Paper and she handles the transitions and mixtures deftly.
4 stars.Add a Comment
This is a children’s picture book structure break down for This Orq. (He Cave Boy.) by David Elliott and Lori Nichols. This breakdown will contain spoilers.…Add a Comment
This is a picture book preview for The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman and Illustrated by Gris Grimly. This is a rhyming alphabet book. A is for…Add a Comment
Title: The Green Bicycle Author: Haifia Al Mansour Publisher: Dial Books for young Readers, 2015 Age: 9-13 Themes: family, dreams, life in Saudi Arabia as a girl, coming of age, role of women/girls Opening: Wadjda wasn’t thinking about her ticket to heaven. You could see it on … Continue readingAdd a Comment
Just finished THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, loved it. This historical fiction novel for middle grade is such a satisfying read, full of adventure and heartbreak and compassion. I loved the characters in this book SO MUCH, and desperately want a sequel.
I confess that I held off reading this book because its premise sounded too depressing but I am soooooooooo glad that I got over this and strongly encourage others who have held off for the same reason to get over it as well. Highly recommended.
More about the book on the Penguin Random House site.Add a Comment
Although I reviewed a print version of Infinity and Me book several years ago (my original review is linked here), I recently had the opportunity to review the audio version for School Library Journal. My review as it appeared in the February, 2016, edition of SLJ is below.
Good art can be a little dark and disturbing. In the case of a new exhibition at the Whitney Library Gallery, it can also be classified as creepy, spooky, kooky, mysterious and more than a little fun. The show features dark drawings and haunting images, much of them from a new children's book, "The Stumps of Flattop Hill," by Las Vegas-based author Kenneth Kit Lamug.Add a Comment