January 17, 2014

Resolved: Read More in 2014

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , , at 11:06 am by The Word Jar

Read more. The eternal resolution for book lovers everywhere. But this year I mean it. I’m not a data-crunchin’ kind of gal, but I do keep track of the books I’ve read, and the number for 2013 was embarrassing. I can’t even mention it. I probably started and dropped more books than I actually finished. I probably have more excuses than books finished.  So I won’t mention numbers. Instead, I will focus on the future and all the good titles to come in 2014. Here’s what I’m excited to read (so far) this year!

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Books I Started in 2013 But Stopped for Whatever Reason and Now Plan to Finish in 2014

Cartwheel CoverAmity and Sorrow CoverThe Absent One Cover

Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

A story loosely based on the Amanda Knox case. I never really paid attention to the details of the Knox case, but this story is riveting.

Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley

A mother tries to free herself and her two daughters from a polygamist marriage/cult. Excellent characters.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

I previously reviewed The Keeper of Lost Causes by Adler-Olsen and couldn’t wait to read his other books. The Absent One provides yet another disturbing crime that has to be solved by Detective Carl Morck.

New Books I’m Excited to Read in 2014

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour CoverI Am China CoverLeaving the Sea CoverI'll Be Right There Cover

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

From publisher’s website: “Paul O’Rourke is a Manhattan dentist with a thriving practice leading a quiet, routine-driven life. But behind the smiles and the nice apartment, he’s a man made of contradictions, and his biggest fear is that he may never truly come to understand anybody, including himself.

Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online “Paul” might be a better version of the real thing. As Paul’s quest to learn why his identity has been stolen deepens, he is forced to confront his troubled past and his uncertain future in a life disturbingly split between the real and the virtual.

At once laugh-out-loud funny about the absurdities of the modern world, and indelibly profound about the eternal questions of the meaning of life, love and truth, TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR is a deeply moving and constantly surprising tour de force.”

I Am China by Xiaolu Guo

From author’s website: “In a flat above a noisy north London market, translator Iona Kirkpatrick starts work on a Chinese letter: Dearest Mu, The sun is piercing, old bastard sky. I am feeling empty and bare. Nothing is in my soul, apart from the image of you. I am writing to you from a place I cannot tell you about yet…

In a detention centre in Dover exiled Chinese musician Jian is awaiting an unknown fate. In Beijing his girlfriend Mu sends desperate letters to London to track him down, her last memory of them together a roaring rock concert and Jian the king on stage. Until the police stormed in.

As Iona unravels the story of these Chinese lovers from their first flirtations at Beijing University to Jian’s march in the Jasmine Revolution, Jian and Mu seem to be travelling further and further away from each other while Iona feels more and more alive. Intoxicated by their romance, Iona sets out to bring them back together, but time seems to be running out.”

Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus

From publisher’s website: “From one of the most innovative and vital writers of his generation, an extraordinary collection of stories that showcases his gifts—and his range—as never before.

In the hilarious, lacerating “I Can Say Many Nice Things,” a washed-up writer toying with infidelity leads a creative writing workshop on board a cruise ship. In the dystopian “Rollingwood,” a divorced father struggles to take care of his ill infant, as his ex-wife and colleagues try to render him irrelevant. In “Watching Mysteries with My Mother,” a son meditates on his mother’s mortality, hoping to stave off her death for as long as he sits by her side. And in the title story, told in a single breathtaking sentence, we watch as the narrator’s marriage and his sanity unravel, drawing him to the brink of suicide.

As the collection progresses, we move from more traditional narratives into the experimental work that has made Ben Marcus a groundbreaking master of the short form. In these otherworldly landscapes, characters resort to extreme survival strategies to navigate the terrors of adulthood, one opting to live in a lightless cave and another methodically setting out to recover total childhood innocence; an automaton discovers love and has to reinvent language to accommodate it; filial loyalty is seen as a dangerous weakness that must be drilled away; and the distance from a cubicle to the office coffee cart is refigured as an existential wasteland, requiring heroic effort.

In these piercing, brilliantly observed investigations into human vulnerability and failure, it is often the most absurd and alien predicaments that capture the deepest truths. Surreal and tender, terrifying and life-affirming, Leaving the Sea is the work of an utterly unique writer at the height of his powers.”

I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin

From publisher’s website: “Set in 1980s South Korea amid the tremors of political revolution, I’ll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate, twenty-something woman, as she recounts her tragic personal history as well as those of her three intimate college friends. When Yoon receives a distressing phone call from her ex-boyfriend after eight years of separation, memories of a tumultuous youth begin to resurface, forcing her to re-live the  most intense period of her life. With profound intellectual and emotional insight, she revisits the death of her beloved mother, the strong bond with her now-dying former college professor, the excitement of her first love, and the friendships forged out of a shared sense of isolation and grief.

Yoon’s formative experiences, which highlight both the fragility and force of personal connection in an era of absolute uncertainty, become immediately palpable. Shin makes the foreign and esoteric utterly familiar: her use of European literature as an interpreter of emotion and experience bridges any gaps between East and West. Love, friendship, and solitude are the same everywhere, as this book makes poignantly clear.”

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I’m really looking forward to these books because I’ve loved some previous books by these authors–The Unnamed and Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris; Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo; The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus; and Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin. All great books you should look into, in addition to these upcoming titles.

It feels good to be excited about my reading material again. I hope it lasts. Let the good books roll!

How is your 2014 reading shaping up so far? Have you finished anything you’d like to recommend? What books are you looking forward to this year?

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May 7, 2013

Ghost Burglar Wins IPPY

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , , , , , , at 2:13 pm by The Word Jar

Ghost BurglarWay back last year before my blogging hiatus, I posted about Ghost Burglar: The True Story of Bernard Welch – Master Thief, Ruthless Con Man, and Cold-Blooded Killer by Jack Burch and James King. Well, we just found out that Ghost Burglar has won the bronze medal in the True Crime category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards (or IPPYs, as they are known in the industry).

According to the IPPY website, “[t]he Independent Publisher Book Awards were conceived in 1996 as a broad-based, unaffiliated awards program open to all members of the independent publishing industry. The awards are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles produced each year, and reward those who exhibit the courage, innovation, and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing.”

So, I offer a grand huzzah to the authors. Their hard work paid off. As any writer knows, writing is such a solitary endeavor (even with co-authors), and it’s nice to receive recognition from the outside world for your effort. And now they get to go to NYC for the awards ceremony and cruise around BookExpo America. Color me jealous!

Teaser Tuesday May 7: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , , , at 12:05 am by The Word Jar

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two “teaser” sentences from that page.

You also need to share the title and author of the book that you’re getting your teaser from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

As always, please avoid spoilers!

*   *   *   *   *

I’d have never thought of Yellow 5 again without Ben reminding me. I wanted to tell him to make a list of things to recall, memories I couldn’t pluck out of my brain on my own.

After devouring Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, it seemed imperative to read her earlier works. These lines are from Dark Places, and I feel they may hold the key to figuring everything out. I’d love to meet Gillian Flynn someday, but only in a large crowd. I wonder what kind of person comes up with these kinds of novels. Love them, but not sure I want to be in a room alone with her!

What are you reading this week?

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

June 5, 2012

Armchair BEA: Best of 2012

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , , , at 2:51 pm by The Word Jar

I’ll admit it. I cannot keep up with the Literary Joneses. I will never in my lifetime finish my “to read” list, yet I add to it almost daily. I add old books; I add new books. I read old books; I read new books. Yet I can’t seem to get my act together enough to read the “it” books when everyone else does. Case in point: I added The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern to the list when I heard about it during BEA 2011, and I’m just now getting around to reading it. Not that I haven’t been salivating to read it all year, it’s just that other books, equally saliva-inducing, pop up, too. With this disclosure, I offer up my list of the Best of 2012, in no particular order and with no particular guarantee that they will be read anytime soon.

Stay Awake by Dan Chaon–This is the only 2012 book I’ve read so far, and it wouldn’t matter what year it was published in, this would make the list. A collection of ethereal dream-like short stories. Simply entrancing.

The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker by Janet Groth–A tell-all from a receptionist at the New Yorker? I think this sounds better than any Real Housewives of [Fill in the City]. But that’s how this bookworm rolls.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson–A memoir by The Bloggess must be required reading for bloggers, right? I’ve only heard great things about this one, but even if it doesn’t live up to expectations, how can you not love that cover?

What I Did by Christopher Wakling–A story about a little boy who runs into a busy street and the consequences of that action, told from the boy’s POV.

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz–I read part of one of the stories in this collection in the BEA Buzz Books from Publishers Lunch (via NetGalley), and the voice was fantastic. With a line like “she treats me like I ate somebody’s favorite kid,” I’m in.

Be sure to let me know what you’ve loved or what you’re looking forward to this year. I’ll be stopping by other Armchair BEA blogs, but the more suggestions, the merrier.

January 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesday January 24: Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , at 10:29 am by The Word Jar

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two “teaser” sentences from that page.

You also need to share the title and author of the book that you’re getting your teaser from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

As always, please avoid spoilers!

*   *   *   *   *

I sit down and am prepared to feel the appropriate amount of anxiety, but I’m interrupted by a knock on my door–my open door. In my career, I’ve found that only annoying people knock on open doors.

Take one man stuck in a mind-numbing career as a copywriter for a soulless corporation. Mix with his dream of being a novelist. Stir in the fact that his father has just won the Pulitzer Prize. Add a dollop of marital strife, a spoonful of an office crush, a spot of Daddy issues, and one neurotic dog. Blend well and you have Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman, a fun read with an unapologetically witty and clever male protagonist. (That’s a good thing!)

What are you reading this week?

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

January 23, 2012

Dancing Books for the Monday Blues

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , at 11:23 am by The Word Jar

It’s winter. It’s Monday. You could use some cheering up. Bring on the dancing books!

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Everybody thinks that bookstores are magical places. Here’s proof that they are right.

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Perhaps the most important activity for any book lover is organizing her beloved bookshelf. Alphabetical? By subject? Dewey Decimal? By color? Here’s some more inspiration.

(Kudos to Sean Ohlenkamp and his team for creating these celebrations of books!)

November 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday November 15: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , at 10:53 am by The Word Jar

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two “teaser” sentences from that page.

You also need to share the title and author of the book that you’re getting your teaser from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

As always, please avoid spoilers!

*   *   *   *   *

As he sat in the airport bar and drank glass after glass of lemon-lime soda and ate handfuls of peanuts and pretzels, he had decided that, should someone ask, he was not a real child but a robot built and designed by a scientific genius. A childless couple had ordered him and he was now being delivered to them in Florida. Beep-bop-boop.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson is about a family with performance artist parents, Caleb and Camille Fang, who insist on including their reluctant children, Annie and Buster, in their very public performances. So far their performances have included Annie snitching on a woman (Camille) who is stealing candy from a candy store and Annie and Buster horrifically singing while trying to earn money, street-performer-style, for “their dog’s” operation, with Camille and Caleb in the surrounding crowd shouting about the kids being horrible performers. The scene I’ve taken my teaser from shows the family’s preparations before they all separately board a plane, with fake IDs, for an in-flight performance. As noted in the book, the date is July 1988–well, before our current airline security measures were implemented. These performances are interspersed between chapters about adult Annie, an actress, and Buster, a down-on-his-luck writer, and how their lives were affected by these performances.

An interesting read so far. Oh, and the boy’s name is Buster? Who doesn’t love a boy named Buster? (Fans of Arrested Development, anyone??)

What are you reading this week?

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

August 29, 2011

Coming Attractions, Book-style

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:53 pm by The Word Jar

Confession: I’m new to book trailers. In a far corner of my mind, I knew they existed as a publishing world marketing tool, but I never bothered to check any out. I assumed book trailers would be guilty of the same thing that movies based on books are guilty of–giving the reader preconceived ideas and images about the characters, places, and plots of the book instead of letting the reader *read* the book and form her own book-based universe.

Now that I’ve done some research and checked out a few book trailers, I’ve found that many of them aren’t what I expected at all. I envisioned short film versions of the books, but I found they are more like commercials for books. As with commercials for every product, there are hits and misses (as highlighted below). But in most instances, these book trailers are not guilty of anything except selling me on reading the books they are promoting. Even though book trailers can be entertaining, I still prefer to get my book recommendations from friends and family and other trustworthy review sources. (Full disclosure: The book trailers I highlight below are all for books that I had already planned to read. Whether or not a book trailer could make me want to read a book I hadn’t already heard of remains to be seen, but in one instance, the book trailer did make me a little hesitant to read the spotlighted book.)

And now dim the lights, here are your coming attractions…

A few weeks ago I featured the book trailer for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I just stumbled onto this book trailer while reading through some of the publicity it was receiving at BEA. It was my first time viewing a book trailer, and it is going to be pretty hard to top. It’s a winning combination of music, whimsy, and story description. It still makes me smile every time I watch it, so let’s feature it again.

Recently a publisher alerted me to another, quite different, book trailer. The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen is a Scandinavian thriller (who can get enough of those these days?) about a cop who recently got shot on the job and gets promoted to run a new department that focuses on cold cases. The first case handled by the new department is the alleged accidental death of a rising politician. Her body was never recovered, and some believe that she was murdered. In actuality (not a spoiler) she has been kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured for five years. The book trailer for The Keeper of Lost Causes effectively conveys the dark, twisted mood of the book.

Another book that’s coming up on my reading list is Just My Type by Simon Garfield. Just My Type is being described as an entertaining history of fonts, but I didn’t find the book trailer to be too entertaining. I still consider it a successful book trailer because it puts a unique spotlight on the book’s title and subject matter.

I’m disappointed to say the book trailer for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is a miss. The actors make the book trailer feel too much like a movie, and that is what I didn’t want book trailers to be. I imagined Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children being much darker than what the book trailer leads me to believe. With a grandfather telling his grandson this story, it feels lighter and more whimsical rather than dark and peculiar. The end of the book trailer delves into that darkness a little, but for now, I’ve moved this book a few notches down my reading list. (Another miss, from the same publisher, Quirk Books, is the book trailer for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Again, it’s the acting.)

And we’ll end on a high note. A hit for Quirk Books is the book trailer for Meowmorphosis by Franz Kafka and Coleridge Cook. This is a close second to The Night Circus. If you don’t want to read this book after seeing this book trailer–hairball and all–I don’t know what will make you want to read it.

What do you think of book trailers? Are they an effective way for publishers to get people to read their books? What are your favorite book trailers?

July 12, 2011

Teaser Tuesday July 12: Dominance by Will Lavender

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , at 2:19 pm by The Word Jar

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two “teaser” sentences from that page.

You also need to share the title and author of the book that you’re getting your teaser from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

As always, please avoid spoilers!

*   *   *   *   *

Richard Aldiss’s eyes remained open, that permanent smile etched on his face. He appeared to be waiting for something. An answer, perhaps. A solution to the puzzles of the dead.

I cheated a little this week, but that means you get a four-sentence teaser for the price of a two-sentence teaser! Dominance looks to be a promising summer thriller. Two students murdered at a college in the early 1980s; the convicted literature professor teaching a special class (from his prison cell) in an attempt to clear his name in 1994; and a copycat crime taking place in the present day. A little lighter (perhaps not the best word) than the fare I’ve been reading lately, so it will be a nice change of pace.

What are you reading this week?

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

June 7, 2011

Teaser Tuesday June 7: Half a Life by Darin Strauss

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , at 9:50 am by The Word Jar

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two “teaser” sentences from that page.

You also need to share the title and author of the book that you’re getting your teaser from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

As always, please avoid spoilers!

*   *   *   *   *

Hundreds turned, a mass, bovine shift: this was the school’s first sanctioned, public mention of Celine in front of me. How would I react? Warm-faced, I focused hard on my thighs.

A change of pace from the books I’ve been reading recently, Half a Life by Darin Strauss is a memoir. When he was eighteen, Strauss accidentally hit a bicycling classmate with his car and killed her. He describes what he went through in the aftermath of the accident, and how this event–especially how he is declared “blameless”–affected his life and still affects it today.

I’m waffling on this book. At times I find it heartbreaking, what everyone–Strauss, his parents, Celine’s parents–are going through. At the same time, it all has a sort of self-indulgent (and I hate to use that word, but I can’t think of anything more appropriate right now) feel, like all of this should be journaled or part of a private therapy session. I kind of feel like a creepy voyeur.

But I know that many memoirs like this can help others who have gone through similar situations. Strauss mentions that he never had anyone to talk with about the accident, as he didn’t know anyone who had gone through this as well. So he kept the accident a secret and tried to deal with it himself after he left his hometown to go to college.

Half a Life is a slim volume, probably a few hours’ read, tops. I should finish it soon, and I do hope that Strauss is able to find some peace for himself by the end.

What are you reading this week?

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

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