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?

June 4, 2012

Let the Armchair BEA-ing begin!

Posted in Interviews tagged , , , , at 6:15 pm by The Word Jar

Welcome, fellow Armchair BEA-ers, to The Word Jar!

If you happened to land on my blog and you aren’t an Armchair BEA-er, let me explain. In NYC this week there is a wonderful event called BookExpo America, celebrating (and promoting) all things books. BEA is a convention of publishers, authors, reviewers, book industry gurus, and other book lovers. Alas, not everyone can make it to New York for a week, so Armchair BEA was created to help more people participate and catch up on the industry goings-on this week.

Today, we Armchair BEA-ers are to introduce ourselves to everyone else, so let the games begin! (It really feels like I should add, “May the odds be ever in your favor!” at this point, but perhaps that’s a bit much.)

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?
My name is Jessica, and I’ve been blogging since 2009. But I’m horribly inconsistent. I can go months without posting (not that I’m not thinking of and writing posts constantly). My problem is that I’m an editor by trade, so I tend to revise an entry to death before I post it. That process becomes lengthy and disheartening, and then I just end up not posting anything. I got into blogging because I wanted a place to post some book reviews and discuss wordy subjects and publishing trends. But instead of being a good poster on my site, I get caught up in commenting on other blogs. It’s just so much easier to compose a short comment than write up a whole meaningful post.

What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012?
I’m currently reading The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I’m a bit surprised by how much I’m enjoying The Flame Alphabet. My least favorite English course in college was Contemporary Literature. And I have looked forward to reading The Night Circus since BEA 2011. My reading list is kind of long. As for my favorite book of 2012 so far, that would be Stay Awake by Dan Chaon. Fascinating short stories.

Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.
I’m not only a book nerd, I’m also a golf nerd. I competed in a national junior golf tournament when I was 11. I took sixth place. Please, hold your applause.

Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?
I really should say that it’s my post about Ghost Burglar (the book I’m currently editing and promoting), but I really enjoy my hard-hitting exposé on house centipedes.

If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?
I’d have to choose Ernest Hemingway in Havana. He’d have some interesting tales to tell, and I’d love a good Cuban sandwich right about now. Or we could also rendezvous in Key West. He has a pretty awesome house there, and anything made with a key lime is fine by me.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ve learned a little about me, and I look forward to visiting other Armchair BEA-ers and learning more about them. Happy BEA!

April 6, 2011

Word of the Week: Reboot

Posted in Word Fun tagged , , , , at 10:22 am by The Word Jar

My trusty Webster’s 11th defines reboot as “to start or ready for use again.” Pretty straightforward. I chose to highlight reboot this week because I felt it was time to reboot The Word Jar. It’s not exactly The Word Jar v2.0, but after so many months of not posting, it felt like I needed a kickstart.

Enter WordPress’s Post A Week Challenge (or Post A Day, for those chatty types).

Always a day late and a post short when it comes to blogging, I’m coming a little late to this challenge, which started at the beginning of the year. In an effort to get their bloggers to post more, WordPress has challenged its bloggers to post weekly or daily entries. (Daily entries just boggle my mind, if only for the massive amount of time it takes me to prepare a single post, but that’s a blog topic for another week.) Nothing like a little outside motivation to get the creative juices flowing, right?

So, dear reader(s?), I pledge to enrich my life, if not yours as well, by posting at least once a week. I’ll try to keep my end of this bargain. If I’m not busy reading. Or writing a post. Or editing (and re-editing) said post.

I’ll use this post as my official entry into the challenge, so don’t expect another post until next week, but I’ve also updated the blog by adding a page for upcoming book festivals and publishing events. I’ve tried to include events from all over the country, but if you know of a fun book or publishing event in your area that I’ve missed, please let me know and I’ll gladly include it.

Until next week, happy reading (and happy posting)!